The efficacy of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) as an alternative to luteinizing hormone (LH)/human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) for the initiation of periovulatory events in primate follicles is unknown. A single bolus of 2500 IU recombinant (r)-hFSH was compared to 1000 IU r-HCG for its ability to promote oocyte nuclear maturation and fertilization, granulosa cell luteinization and corpus luteum function following r-hFSH (60 IU/day) induction of multiple follicular development in rhesus monkeys. Following the r-hFSH bolus, bioactive luteinizing hormone concentrations were <3 ng/ml. Peak concentrations of serum FSH (1455+/-314 mIU/ml; mean+/-SEM) were attained 2-8 h after r-hFSH, and declined by 96 h. Bioactive HCG concentrations peaked between 2-8 h after r-HCG and remained > or = 100 ng/ml for >48 h, while immunoreactive FSH concentrations were at baseline. The proportion of oocytes resuming meiosis and undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were comparable for r-hFSH (89%; 47+/-19%) and r-HCG (88%; 50+/-17%). In-vitro progesterone production and expression of progesterone receptors in granulosa cells did not differ between groups. Peak concentrations of serum progesterone in the luteal phase were similar, but were lower 6-9 days post-FSH relative to HCG. Thus, a bolus of r-hFSH was equivalent to r-HCG for the reinitiation of oocyte meiosis, fertilization and granulosa cell luteinization, but a midcycle FSH surge did not sustain normal luteal function in primates.