A chronic unpredictable stress model used to produce depressive disorders in adult rats was applied to neonatal rats to investigate whether this type of stress can induce changes in the expression of Hsp70 and oestrogen receptor alpha in the oviduct, as detected by immunohistochemistry. Rats stressed during neonatal development showed changes in the expression pattern of Hsp70. In neonatal control rats, Hsp70-positive cells observed in the isthmus did not show any changes. Moreover, rats exposed to this stress model that reached adulthood had higher expression of Hsp70 in the isthmus (P<0.01) but not in the ampulla during oestrus than did the control rats. In contrast, during dioestrus, no significant changes were noted in adult rats that were stressed during neonatal development or in rats that were stressed in adulthood. These findings indicate that the isthmus is very sensitive to stressful stimuli and that repeated pre-weaning stress can change the expression of heat shock proteins in early and adult life. These subtle changes of expression in the oviduct did not affect the fertility of the rats that reached adulthood or that were mated under unstressed conditions. However, the control animals stressed during adulthood showed a disruption of the oestrous cycle: this finding is not observed in rats stressed during neonatal development that show an attenuated oestrous cycle disruption induced by chronic stress in adulthood. Moreover, there was dissociation between the expression of oestrogen receptor alpha and Hsp70. The amount of oestrogen receptor alpha remained constant in the epithelium of the oviduct in the control and in the stressed rats. Expression of oestrogen receptor alpha was noted in the stroma of the oviduct without the concomitant expression of Hsp70. It is possible that in certain cells and tissues Hsp70 is not necessary for oestrogen receptor alpha to be functional or Hsp70 might be present at very low amounts but is sufficient for the receptor to function.