Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) has been implicated in the regulation of avian reproductive activity and appears to act at the level of the hypothalamus and pituitary. This in situ hybridization histochemistry study describes the distribution of VIP receptor mRNA expression in the hypothalamus and the pituitary of reproductively active (laying) and quiescent (nonphotostimulated, incubating, and photorefractory) female turkeys and characterizes the differences observed in VIP receptor gene expression. VIP receptor mRNA, while expressed throughout the hypothalamus, was specifically expressed in areas known to contain GnRH-I neurons in the chicken, i.e., the lateral septum, medial preoptic area, anterior hypothalamus, and paraventricular nucleus. Significant differences in VIP receptor mRNA expression between different reproductive states was observed only within the infundibular nuclear complex. VIP receptor mRNA was markedly less in nonphotostimulated and photorefractory hens as compared with laying and incubating hens. The most dense VIP receptor mRNA was found in the anterior pituitary, where it was 2.4- and 3.0-fold greater in laying and incubating hens, respectively, as compared with that in nonphotostimulated ones. Hens that stopped incubating and became photorefractory displayed pituitary VIP receptor mRNA levels similar to those of nonphotostimulated birds. The changes in pituitary VIP receptor mRNA expression were positively correlated with known changes in pituitary prolactin (PRL) mRNA expression and PRL content and release. These findings indicate that the variations in PRL secretion observed across the turkey reproductive cycle are, in part, regulated by changes in VIP receptors at the pituitary level.