As the fetus expresses paternal major histocompatibility complex molecules, viviparous vertebrates require sophisticated mechanisms to modulate maternal immunology to ensure successful pregnancy. We anticipated that ovarian cavity fluid (OCF) is likely to feature significantly in the modulation of ovarian cavity immunology. Consequently, we examined the effects of OCF upon leukocyte function in Neoditrema ransonnetii. OCF did not affect phagocytosis or superoxide production by phagocytes. However, OCF suppressed lymphocyte proliferation induced by ConA almost completely. As OCF contained PGE(2) at high levels during late pregnancy, we also investigated the effect of PGE(2) upon lymphocyte expansion. PGE(2) exhibited negative effects upon lymphocyte mitogenesis in a dose-dependent manner (10-1000 ng/ml). PGE(2) significantly suppressed lymphocyte proliferation when present at levels equivalent to that seen in OCF (30.2 +/- 16.1 approximately 185.4 +/- 107.4 ng/ml). Data indicate that PGE(2) is one of the key modulatory molecules of the maternal immune system ensuring successful pregnancy in this viviparous species.