Recent studies suggest thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH) serves as a neurotransmitter and thereby provides a functional vegetative connection between the brain and the ovary. In the present study, magnocellular neurones of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) in animals subjected to cold exposure were studied to determine the hypothalamic origin of the TRH involved in this pathway. In situ hybridisation analysis of hypothalamic tissue showed that cold exposure causes a two-fold increase in the total number of neurones expressing TRH mRNA in the PVN. Immunohistochemical studies showed that TRH peptide is localised to the magnocellular PVN and that the number of TRH immunoreactive cells increases two-fold following 64 h of cold exposure. Double-immunostaining for MAP-2 and TRH revealed that TRH peptide is localised in the perikarya of the magnocellular neurones. TRH release was measured in vivo from the magnocellular portion of the PVN using push–pull perfusion. Although controls exhibited a very low level of TRH release, animals subjected to cold showed a pulsatile-like TRH release profile with two different patterns of release: (i) low basal level with small bursts of TRH release and (ii) a profile with an up to seven-fold increase in TRH release compared to controls. The colocalisation of TRH with the specific somato-dendritic marker MAP-2 in processes of the magnocellular neurones suggested a local release of TRH. Additional studies demonstrated a reduction in ovarian noradrenaline content after 48 h of cold exposure, a feature indicative of nerve activation at the terminal organ. After 64 h of cold exposure, the ovarian noradrenaline returned to control values but the noradrenaline content of the coeliac ganglia was increased, suggesting a compensatory effect originating in the cell bodies of the sympathetic neurones that innervate the ovary. The correlation between the local release of TRH from dendrites within the magnocellular PVN in conditions of cold and the activation of the sympathetic nerves supplying the ovary raises the possibility that TRH contributes to the processing regulating sympathetic outflow and may thereby impact on the functional activity of the ovary.