The objective was to determine the morphological and ultrastructural features of sheep primordial follicles preserved in either 0.9% saline solution or TCM 199 at different temperatures. Soon after death, the ovarian pair of each ewe (n = 5) was divided into 25 fragments. One fragment was immediately fixed for morphological evaluation (control). The other 24 fragments were randomly distributed in tubes containing 2 ml of 0.9% saline solution or TCM 199 and maintained at 4, 20 or 39 degrees C for 2, 4, 12, or 24h. Based on histological assessment, storage of ovarian fragments in 0.9% saline solution at 20 degrees C for up to 24h and in both solutions at 39 degrees C for 4, 12 or 24h increased (P < 0.01) the percentage of degenerate primordial follicles compared with controls. In contrast, preservation at 4 degrees C in both solutions, kept the percentage of morphologically normal primordial follicles similar to control values. Although histological integrity of primordial follicles was maintained in fragments stored at 20 degrees C for up to 24h in TCM 199, these results were not confirmed by ultrastructural analysis. Based on transmission electron microscopy, only primordial follicles stored at 4 degrees C for up to 24h, at 20 degrees C for up to 12h and at 39 degrees C for up to 2h in both solutions were ultrastructurally normal. In conclusion, sheep primordial follicles were successfully preserved at 4 degrees C for up to 24h, at 20 degrees C for up to 12h and at 39 degrees C for 2h in 0.9% saline solution or TCM 199.