The aim of this study was to establish the gestational- and labour-associated variation in the relative abundance of prostaglandin synthase-1 (PGHS-1) and prostaglandin synthase-2 (PGHS-2) mRNA in ovine placenta (cotyledons). Cotyledons were collected from non-labouring ewes at 40–145 days of gestation (n=25) and from ewes in active labour (145–147 days, n=5). The relative abundance of PGHS-1 and PGHS-2 mRNA transcripts was determined by Northern blot analysis and laser densitometry, using a 2·3 kb sheep and a 1·2kb mouse cDNA probe respectively. Data were expressed as a ratio of PGHS transcript hybridization/18S rRNA hybridization. During pregnancy, the relative abundance of PGHS-2 mRNA increased sevenfold, from 0·19±0·04 at 40–85 days (n=5) to 1·39±0·05 at 140–145 days (n=4) (P<0·01). PGHS-1 mRNA relative abundance did not change significantly (P>0·05) during gestation. Neither PGHS-1 nor PGHS-2 mRNA relative abundance changed significantly in association with labour onset at term (n=5) when compared with the relative abundance observed at 140–145 days (n=4) (P>0·05). The data obtained in this study are consistent with the hypothesis that PGHS-1 is constitutively expressed in ovine placenta during pregnancy and at the time of labour, and that PGHS-2 is induced during the second half of pregnancy. It remains to be established to what extent these two isozymes contribute to the net prostaglandin-forming capacity of the ovine placenta, particularly at the time of labour.