Circadian rhythms are generated by endogenous clocks in the central brain oscillator, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and peripheral tissues. The molecular basis for the circadian clock consists of a number of genes and proteins that form transcriptional/translational feedback loops. In the mammalian gonads, clock genes have been reported in the testes, but the expression pattern is developmental rather than circadian. Here we investigated the daily expression of the two core clock genes, Per1 and Per2, in the rat ovary using real-time RT-PCR, in situ hybridization histochemistry, and immunohistochemistry. Both Per1 and Per2 mRNA displayed a statistically significant rhythmic oscillation in the ovary with a period of 24 h in: 1) a group of rats during proestrus and estrus under 12-h light,12-h dark cycles; 2) a second group of rats representing a mixture of all 4 d of the estrous cycle under 12-h light,12-h dark conditions; and 3) a third group of rats representing a mixture of all 4 d of estrous cycle during continuous darkness. Per1 mRNA was low at Zeitgeber time 0-2 and peaked at Zeitgeber time 12-14, whereas Per2 mRNA was delayed by approximately 4 h relative to Per1. By in situ hybridization histochemistry, Per mRNAs were localized to steroidogenic cells in preantral, antral, and preovulatory follicles; corpora lutea; and interstitial glandular tissue. With newly developed antisera, we substantiated the expression of Per1 and Per2 in these cells by single/double immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, we visualized the temporal intracellular movements of PER1 and PER2 proteins. These findings suggest the existence of an ovarian circadian clock, which may play a role both locally and in the hypothalamo-pituitary-ovarian axis.