A hypothalamic site of action has been hypothesized for the inhibitory effect of chronic stress on gonadotrophin secretion. The aim of the present study was to examine the temporal changes in hypothalamic LHRH content and gonadotrophin secretion during restraint stress, and the pituitary responsiveness to LHRH stimulation in chronically stressed rats. Adult male rats were killed after being restrained for 0, 20, 45, 90, 180 and 360 min or for 6 h daily over 2, 3 and 4 days. After 20-45 min of stress there was an increase in plasma concentrations of LH (P less than 0.01) and a decrease in hypothalamic LHRH content (P less than 0.01), suggesting a negative correlation between plasma LH and hypothalamic LHRH concentrations. Plasma concentrations of FSH were also increased by restraint, but the FSH response was slower and less than the plasma LH response, being significant after 90 min of restraint. Plasma LH and FSH and hypothalamic LHRH concentrations were decreased in chronically stressed rats. In rats restrained for 6 h daily over 4 days, the response of plasma gonadotrophins to administration of 500 ng LHRH was enhanced 45 min after the injection. On the basis of these observations we concluded that in the intact rat, stress may acutely stimulate LHRH and gonadotrophin secretion, and the inhibitory effect of chronic stress on plasma LH and FSH seems not to be due to a reduction in pituitary responsiveness to LHRH, but rather to a decrease in LHRH secretion.