Prolactin responses to pharmacological agents were used to characterize the defect in prolactin regulation which occurs after administration of high doses of oestrogen to rats. Animals with chronically implanted venous cannulae were injected with 2 mg oestradiol benzoate in oil and 2-3 days later prolactin concentrations were measured after injections of saline, thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH), fenfluramine, apomorphine and butaclamol. The responses were compared with those in oil-injected animals. Hyperprolactinaemia in oestrogen-treated animals was unresponsive to apomorphine, but was even more sensitive to dopamine receptor blockade than controls. These results suggest that the lactotrophs in oestrogen-treated animals are already maximally suppressed by endogenous dopamine, though ineffectively. Although there was an increased prolactin response to TRH in oestrogen-treated animals, there was an impaired response to fenfluramine, indicating suppressed serotonergic prolactin-releasing factor mechanisms. Maximal endogenous dopaminergic activity and suppressed prolactin-releasing factor mechanisms are appropriate hypothalamic responses to hyperprolactinaemia. The operation of these responses in the earliest stages of the development of pituitary hyperplasia indicates that oestrogen induces a disturbance of prolactin regulation in the lactotroph, independent of hypothalamic control.