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The aim of this study was to determine whether the decline in oestradiol inhibition of circulating luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) during the peripubertal period of heifers is associated with a change in opioid modulation of LH and FSH secretion. Opioid inhibition of LH secretion was determined by response to administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone. Prepubertal heifers (403 days old) were left as intact controls, ovariectomized or ovariectomized and chronically administered oestradiol. Control heifers were used to determine time of puberty. Three weeks after ovariectomy, four doses of naloxone (0·13-0·75 mg kg-1 body weight) or saline were administered to heifers in the treatment groups in a latin square design (one dose per day). Blood samples were collected at intervals of 10 min for 2 h before and 2 h after administration of naloxone. This procedure was repeated four times at intervals of 3 weeks during the time intact control heifers were attaining puberty. All doses of naloxone induced a similar increase in concentration of serum LH within a bleeding period. During the initial bleeding period (before puberty in control heifers), administration of naloxone induced an increase in LH concentration, but the response was greater for heifers in the ovariectomized and oestradiol treated than in the ovariectomized group. At the end of the study when control heifers had attained puberty (high concentrations of progesterone indicated corpus luteum function), only heifers in the ovariectomized and oestradiol treated group responded to naloxone. Opioid inhibition of LH appeared to decline in heifers during the time control heifers were attaining puberty. Heifers in the ovariectomized group responded to naloxone at the time of administration with an increase in FSH, but FSH did not respond to naloxone at any other time. Administration of naloxone did not alter secretion of FSH in ovariectomized heifers. These results suggest that opioid neuropeptides and oestradiol are involved in regulating circulating concentrations of LH and possibly FSH during the peripubertal period. Opioid inhibition of gonadotrophin secretion appeared to decline during the peripubertal period but was still present in ovariectomized heifers treated with oestradiol after the time when age-matched control heifers had attained puberty. We conclude that opioid inhibition is important in regulating LH and FSH in circulation in heifers during the peripubertal period. However, opioids continue to be involved in regulation of circulating concentrations of LH after puberty.