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Angiotensin II has been identified immunohistochemically in the ovaries of both rats and humans. Here we present evidence that angiotensin II (an extremely vasoactive agent in a wide range of tissues) may be involved in the regulation of the major steroidogenic enzyme in the ovary, cholesterol side chain cleavage cytochrome P-450 (P-450scc), as well as of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), which has been implicated as an angiogenic factor in the bovine corpus luteum. We have used primary cultures of bovine luteal cells to examine the effect of angiotensin II and its receptor antagonist, saralasin, on expression of mRNA encoding bFGF as well as on progesterone production and the expression of mRNA encoding cholesterol side chain cleavage cytochrome P-450 (P-450scc). Neither angiotensin II nor saralasin when added alone to the culture medium had any effect on basal progesterone production. Luteinizing hormone (LH) caused a 15-fold increase in progesterone accumulation after 24 h of exposure which was reduced to 5-fold in the presence of angiotensin II. This appeared to be receptor-mediated in that although saralasin alone had no effect on LH-stimulated progesterone accumulation, it significantly reversed the inhibition by angiotensin II. This pattern was mirrored by the levels of mRNA encoding P-450scc, i.c., LH induced the highest levels of expression of this message, these levels were reduced by angiotensin II, and saralasin partially overcame this reduction. Levels of mRNA encoding bFGF were elevated by both LH and angiotensin II. Treatment with saralasin, however, resulted in complete inhibition of bFGF mRNA expression in the presence of both LH and angiotensin II. These results suggest a role for angiotensin II to mediate the action of LH as a regulator of bFGF expression and hence, potentially, angiogenesis. Local production of angiotensin II might also contribute to the refractoriness of luteal progesterone secretion to LH at the time of luteal regression.