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Changes in pulsatile secretion of LH, FSH, oestradiol and progesterone were related to the growth phase, early plateau phase and regression phase of the first ovarian dominant follicle of the oestrous cycle in Bos indicus heifers. Relationships between these hormones during the three phases were also investigated. Accurate measurements of episodic ovarian steroid secretion were obtained by catheterizing the caudal vena cava via the lateral saphenous vein; the tip of the catheter was positioned just cranial to the ovarian vein using transrectal ultrasonography. Pulsatile secretion of oestradiol was increased only during the growth phase of the dominant follicle and was associated with high frequency release of LH pulses. However, mean concentrations of oestradiol were reduced when the dominant follicle attained its maximum diameter. Between the growth and plateau phases, as the amount of progesterone released increased and oestradiol released decreased, LH pulse frequency and mean concentration of LH decreased. Pulses of LH released were followed within 15 min by increases in mean concentrations of oestradiol (P < 0.001); however, there was no apparent relationship between LH and progesterone release (P = 0.19). Although there was little evidence of pulsatile release of FSH, mean concentrations of FSH were increased by 0.2 ng ml-1 (P = 0.04) during the plateau phase, which was on average 2.1 days before the day of emergence of the second dominant follicle of the oestrous cycle. This increase in FSH, in conjunction with the decrease in secretion of oestradiol, may be an indication of the loss of functional dominance by the first dominant follicle of the oestrous cycle.