Implantation of prolactin (PRL) into the median eminence (PRL-ME implants) of 23 day old female rats markedly advanced the onset of puberty, as measured by the age at vaginal opening and at first ovulation. Precocious puberty was preceded by steroidogenic activation of the ovary, as reflected by increases in uterine weight and an enhanced in vitro steroidal responsiveness of the ovary to hCG. The stimulatory effect of PRL-ME implants could not be attributed to alterations in the release of LH, FSH, GH or TSH from the anterior pituitary. Likewise, the PRL effect was neither exerted through the adrenal gland nor involved activation of a direct neural, vagal-mediated influence on the ovary. Furthermore, the effect of PRL-ME implants was not due to a decrease in pituitary secretion of opioid substances, which appear to restrain chronically gonadotropin release during female prepubertal development. These latter experiments also showed that administration of the opioid agonist, morphine, can delay the onset of puberty in the female rat. Although local exposure of the medial basal hypothalamus to high PRL levels is extremely effective in accelerating puberty, the mechanisms by which this effect is exerted remains to be elucidated. © 1982.