In order to study whether hypothalamic transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα) gene expression in the monkey is estrogen-sensitive, long-term ovariectomized rhesus macaques were implanted subcutaneously with either estradiol-containing (n = 3) or blank (n = 3) Silastic capsules. Blood samples were collected every other day while the animals were lightly sedated with ketamine hydrochloride to monitor circulating LH and estradiol concentrations. Animals were killed with a lethal dose of pentobarbital sodium after a marked suppression of LH secretion was confirmed (81 days of estradiol treatment); the preoptic area (POA), mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) and samples of cerebral cortex were dissected out, snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen and processed for the determination of TGFα messenger RNA (mRNA) by ribonuclease protection assay using a cRNA probe. The opportunity was also taken to study the action of estrogen on hypothalamic GnRH mRNA levels. Although circulating estradiol concentrations of 50–150 pg/ml achieved in the steroid-treated group produced a decrease in hypothalamic GnRH mRNA levels, which was significant in the MBH, TGFα mRNA levels in this hypothalamic region and in the POA were not influenced by estrogen treatment. These findings indicate that TGFα is probably not involved in mediating the inhibitory action of estradiol on GnRH neurons. Additionally, the relevance of our results to the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the initiation of puberty in primates is discussed.