We have examined the role of the primary gonadotropin surges in regulating inhibin alpha- and beta A-subunit mRNA levels in rat ovarian follicles. Inhibin subunit mRNA levels decline dramatically on the evening of proestrus in follicles of the ovulatory pool. Because this decline is temporally associated with primary gonadotropin surges, we investigated the contribution of LH and FSH to this process. The primary gonadotropin surges were blocked by injection of a GnRH antagonist (WY45760) at 1200 h on proestrus. This resulted in sustained elevation of inhibin mRNA levels through 0700 h of the subsequent day, a time when inhibin mRNA levels would normally be very low. Replacement of either exogenous LH or FSH in ovulatory doses to an antagonist-treated animal at 1530 h on proestrus resulted in a decrease in inhibin mRNA levels by 4-5 h postreplacement. We conclude that LH and FSH act via a common mechanism to repress inhibin mRNA levels in stimulated preovulatory follicles.