The present study determined the source and regulation of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP4) during mid-late baboon pregnancy. Serum 17-OHP4 (ng/ml) in 5 untreated baboons increased from low values at mid-late gestation to a mean (+/- SEM) of 0.49 +/- 0.02 during the final 20 days of gestation. Fetectomy of 5 baboons resulted in serum 17-OHP4 concentrations which declined to and remained at baseline. Serum 17-OHP4 concentrations were 5- to 10-fold greater (P less than 0.001) in the uterine, utero-ovarian, and umbilical veins than peripherally. Apparently the fetal adrenal provides precursors for placental 17-OHP4 formation because the fetal adrenal gland develops delta 5-3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase only late in gestation, and because the fetal adrenal and not the placenta has the capacity for 17-hydroxylation. Thus, at mid-late gestation the placenta appears to supply a major, and at term the corpus luteum a minor portion of the total 17-OHP4. Administration of the estrogen antagonist ethamoxytriphetol (MER-25, 15 mg/kg BW) to 4 baboons did not affect 17-OHP4 during mid-late gestation, when the placenta was the only source of 17-OHP4. However, MER-25 resulted in serum 17-OHP4 concentrations (ng/ml) at term which were greater (1.08 +/- 0.10, P less than 0.001) than in untreated baboons (0.49 +/- 0.02). Prior removal of the corpus luteum of pregnancy in 4 animals subsequently given MER-25 prevented this rise in 17-OHP4. This suggests that the marked elevation in 17-OHP4 observed near term after MER-25 administration was of luteal origin and that antiestrogen enhanced 17-OHP4 secretion by the corpus luteum.