In order to determine whether there is an anomaly in the pituitary responsiveness to growth hormone (GH)-releasing factor in the genetically obese rat, we examined the in vitro and in vivo effects of rGRF(1–29)NH2 (GRF) on GH release in male and female Zucker rats. The effect of increasing GRF concentrations (1.56, 6.25, 12.5, 25 and 50 p M) was first tested on GH release from freshly perifused anterior pituitary cells. In both sexes, the GH response per one pituitary equivalent to each GRF concentration tested was reduced in the obese group. However, when GH release was expressed as a percent of initial cell GH content, there was no difference between the lean and the obese groups. Furthermore, under pentobarbital anesthesia, GRF was injected intravenously at two consecutive doses of 0.8 and 4.0 µg/kg body weight in obese and lean animals. In both sexes, the GH response to each dose of GRF tested was decreased in the obese group. Basal serum GH concentrations were similar in male and female obese rats compared to their respective lean siblings. In conclusion, this study demonstrates a decrease of the in vitro and in vivo pituitary response to GRF in the obese Zucker rat, suggesting a possible secondary defect at the pituitary level.