The basic foundation for normal puberty and adult reproductive function is established during fetal life with the adequate development of the hypothalamus, pituitary and gonads. Further maturation and differentiation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis continues throughout childhood, puberty, adult life and senescence. Pituitary FSH and LH play a central role in the cascade of events in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis by mediating between the brain and hypothalamus on one hand and the endorgan, the ovary, on the other. Absent or low pituitary secretion of FSH and LH, as occurs in hypothalamic/pituitary hypogonadism, leads in women to anovulation, amenorrhoea and absent ovarian follicular development. The ability of gonadotrophins to modulate ovarian function depends on their rate of synthesis by the pituitary gonadotrophs, on their circulating concentrations (which vary throughout life and throughout the menstrual cycle), on the relative abundance of the multiple forms of gonadotrophins that have varying biological activity, on the presence of their receptors on the different cell types of the ovary, on the intracellular adenylate cyclase enzyme that causes the production of cAMP, and on the extra- and intragonadal factors that are able to modulate the effects of gonadotrophins in the ovary. Recent clinical and basic research with recombinant gonadotrophins, molecular biological studies on the localization, function and regulation of the long sought after gonadotrophin receptors, as well as research on the interaction between gonadotrophins and local intragonadal factors have widened our knowledge about the function and role of FSH and LH in the ovary and have provided new insights into previously unanswered questions of ovarian physiology and pathophysiology and will provide the basis for the design of new treatment strategies to overcome ovulatory gonadotrophin-dependent dysfunction in the future.