Resting plasma concentrations of LH, FSH, estradiol, and progesterone and medial basal hypothalamic concentrations of LHRH (MBH-LHRH) were measured by RIA in 8- to 12-month-old female rats which had begun to exhibit constant estrous (CE) or prolonged diestrous (PD) vaginal smear patterns and compared to young cycling rats on proestrus, estrus, or diestrus. In addition, we examined the effect of ovariectomy on these hormonal profiles. Old CE rats have normal plasma LH, FSH and progesterone concentrations, but exhibit elevated estradiol levels and decreased MBH-LHRH concentrations compared to young cycling rats on the day of estrus. Ovariectomy results in an attenuated rise in plasma LH and FSH and a much lesser decrease in MBH-LHRH when compared to young rats, despite comparable steroid changes. Old PD rats have normal LH and FSH levels, but have elevated estradiol and progesterone concentrations and decreased MBH-LHRH levels when compared to young rats on the day of diestrus. Ovariectomy causes a normal decrease in MBH-LHRH; however, the increased gonadotropin levels are significantly less than seen in young controls.