To explain the high rate of blood flow in the corpus luteum, we hypothesize that luteal blood vessels offer minimal resistance to flow and are incapable of vasomotion. This hypothesis was tested in rabbits at mid-pseudopregnancy by measuring blood flow in the corpus luteum and ovarian stroma with tracer-labeled microspheres at three levels of arterial blood pressure, which was manipulated by constricting the aorta above the ovarian artery. In addition, the distribution of vascular smooth muscle in the ovary was evaluated with morphological and immunocytochemical techniques. Decreases in arterial pressure were paralleled by reductions in blood flow in the corpus luteum, whereas ovarian stromal blood flow was unchanged. Consistent with our hypothesis, there was no change in the low level of vascular resistance offered by blood vessels in the corpus luteum, supporting the view that they are maximally dilated and incapable of autoregulation. Morphologically, the vessels within the corpus luteum appeared as large sinusoidal capillaries without smooth muscle, providing an anatomical explanation for the lack of vasomotor control demonstrated physiologically. The absence of vascular smooth muscle was confirmed with immunocytochemistry using an antibody against the muscle-specific intermediate filament, desmin. The fluorescein-labeled antibody decorated arteries and arterioles within the ovarian stroma and near the capsule of the corpus luteum, but did not decorate vessels in the corpus luteum of pseudopregnancy, providing additional evidence that the vessels of the corpus luteum lack the smooth muscle investment necessary to change vascular caliber. From these findings, we have proposed a novel scheme to explain intraovarian blood flow regulation. Vascular resistance in the ovarian stroma, as in most tissues, is acutely regulated by dilation or constriction of intratissue arterioles. In contrast, vascular resistance within the corpus luteum is modeled as a relatively invariable parameter, fixed at a low level by the morphological characteristics of the luteal vasculature. Therefore, the corpus luteum operates on a linear (maximally "vasodilated") pressure-flow curve, does not actively regulate intratissue blood flow, and is subject to acute regulation of perfusion only through changes in extra-luteal vessels.