OBJECTIVES Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors play important roles in angiogenesis. Melatonin plays an important role in gonadal development; thus, its effect on the reproductive system is evident. We investigated the influence of melatonin on the expression of VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR1) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR2), as well as on changes in oxidative stress markers and follicle numbers in rat ovaries. METHODS For this purpose, 45 Wistar rats were separated into the following groups: Group 1, control; Group 2, vehicle; and Group 3, melatonin. Rats in Group 3 were treated with melatonin at 50 mg/kg/day for 30 days. The effects of melatonin on the expression of VEGF, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2 were established by immunohistochemistry analysis. The effects of melatonin on antioxidant enzyme activities were demonstrated by spectrophotometric analysis. RESULTS Based on immunohistochemistry analysis, VEGFR2 was predominantly localized to theca cells in the ovary. Our data indicate that melatonin treatment can significantly increase VEGF and VEGFR1 expression in the ovary ( p <0.05). Additionally, the number of degenerated follicles significantly decreased with melatonin treatment ( p <0.05). Melatonin administration also led to significant increases in antioxidant enzyme levels in the ovary. CONCLUSION Melatonin treatment exerts protective effects on follicles against increased lipid peroxidation through modulating tissue antioxidant enzyme levels. These effects may be related to angiogenesis and antioxidant activities.