The present study was undertaken to evaluate the effects of PRL in the process of ovulation and oocyte maturation. In the first experiment, using an in vitro perfused rabbit ovary model, the addition of PRL to the perfusate inhibited hCG-induced ovulation in a dose-related fashion, without any reduction in progesterone synthesis. In a subsequent experiment, PRL directly inhibited both the degeneration and decomposition of surface epithelial cells and the disruption of connective tissue at the apex of the follicle wall. Furthermore, PRL inhibited hCG-stimulated plasminogen activator (PA) activity in mature follicles in a dose-related fashion. In the final experiment, we demonstrated conditions in which rabbit oocytes matured in vitro acquire competence for early embryonic development. PRL, as well as gonadotropins and estradiol, was an important constituent in the process of oocyte maturation, promoting embryonic development. These results suggest that the preovulatory environment of PRL within the follicle may influence the process of ovulation and oocyte maturation.