In elasmobranchs, a unique association exists between an immune tissue, the epigonal organ (EO), and the gonads. In this study, the histological and vascular relationships of the EO and ovarian follicles of the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, were assessed. Perfusions of Evans blue dye and Batson's monomer showed a shared vascular pathway from the gonadal artery into the epigonal-ovary complex, with blood first entering the EO and then perfusing the ovarian follicles. Histological studies demonstrated direct cellular contact between epigonal leukocytes and the follicle wall (FW), as well as the presence of leukocytes between the steroidogenic theca and granulosa cells. In vitro analyses demonstrated that epigonal cells co-cultured with FW cells cause a dose-dependent inhibition of estrogen (E2) and testosterone (T) production. In contrast, conditioned media from epigonal leukocytes, stimulated or unstimulated with lipopolysaccharide (10 microg/ml), increase the production of E2 and T from FW cells of the ovaries. These studies provide a basis for further investigations of leukocyte secreted factors and cell contact modulation of follicular steroid production.