The effect of exogenous ovine prolactin (oPRL) on preovulatory follicle P450 17 alpha-hydroxylase (C17) and aromatase (ARO) mRNA abundance was investigated in turkeys. Ovine PRL (124 IU/hen per day) was injected i.m. into four sets (n = 8) of laying turkeys for 2, 4, 8, or 14 days. Vehicle was injected into control hens for 8 days (n = 8). Blood samples were collected and serum was assayed for LH, progesterone (P), testosterone (T), and estradiol (E). Theca layers from the largest (F1) and the third (F3), fifth (F5), and seventh (F7) largest preovulatory follicles and from small white follicles (SWF) were examined for C17 and ARO mRNA contents. The number of atretic follicles increased from 0 (vehicle-injected controls) to 9 (14-day-oPRL-injected hens). Serum E, T, and LH levels decreased, while P levels remained unchanged. There was a transient increase in theca C17 mRNA abundance of 2- and 4-day-oPRL-treated hen follicles. Cytochrome P450 ARO mRNA levels were reduced in SWF and F7 in response to oPRL. Thecal C17 and ARO mRNA content was reduced during follicular maturation in laying hens. ARO mRNA was not detectable in granulosa cells. The progressive decline in C17 and ARO mRNA content associated with follicular maturation as well as the absence of ARO mRNA in granulosa cells is consistent with the secretory activity of P, T, and E in preovulatory follicles. These findings suggest that reduced circulating E may be a consequence of suppressed ARO gene expression whereas the oPRL suppression of T secretion may not be coupled to C17 gene expression.