Two different types of experimentally-induced polycystic ovaries (PCO) have been examined. A macrocystic ovarian condition is induced by estradiol valerate (EV) injection, whereas a microcystic ovarian condition is engendered with subcutaneous estradiol implants. In both of these models thecal and secondary interstitial cells were characterized using three functionally significant indices. Expression of alkaline phosphatase was evaluated immunohistochemically, hCG/LH-binding capacity was assessed by means of EM radioautography, and the size and percent cytoplasmic area of intracytoplasmic lipid were determined, in the same cells, by morphometry. In both types of ovary, thecal cells of healthy and atretic follicles stained heavily for alkaline phosphatase whereas cystic theca exhibited little or no staining. Intermittent faintly stained patches of secondary interstitial cells, as well as intensely stained spheroidal cell clusters, were most numerous in the microcystic ovary and occurred less frequently in the macrocystic ovary. Cystic thecal cells in both conditions exhibited large lipid droplets and minimal hCG binding. Lipid droplet area was minimal and hCG binding maximal in secondary interstitial cells of both types of ovary. It is concluded that specific clusters of secondary interstitial cells are important steroidogenic elements in PCO, whereas cystic theca is relatively inert.