Immature rabbits, guinea pigs and mice were injected with estradiol cyclopentylpropionate (ECP) or diethylstilbestrol (DES) for 3 days to evaluate whether estrogen enhances follicular maturation. Also, estrogen receptors in the ovary and uterus from these animals were measured. Uterine weight increased in all animals treated with ECP or DES, whereas actual ovarian weight increased only in the guinea pig. This correlated with the ability of estrogens to significantly increase the number of antral follicles in the guinea pig ovary. In the rabbit and mouse, estrogen increased only the number of small or large preantral follicles. However, the number of estrogen binding sites in the ovarian cytosol and nucleus was greater in the rabbit and the mouse than in the guinea pig. The affinity of ovarian cytosol receptors was the lowest for the guinea pig among the 3 species. Thus it is seen that estrogen does not enhance follicular maturation in all animal species. The ovarian response to estrogen is not only dependent upon estrogen receptors but also unknown mechanism(s) that may be related to paracrine or autocrine functions.