The changes in adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) release before, during and after sympathetic nerve degeneration following superior cervical ganglionectomy (SCGx) were examined in male rats. A 12-fold increase of circulating ACTH was found in both SCGx and sham-operated rats 6 h after surgery. In sham-operated rats, plasma ACTH decreased by about half 16–22 h after surgery, whereas in SCGx rats it remained at a high concentration from 16 to 54 h after surgery, attaining basal values by 120 h post-SCGx. In SCGx rats, MBH corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) content decreased significantly from 16 to 54 h after surgery, while in controls it remained unmodified. Significantly smaller arginine vasopressin (AVP) contents were found in MBH of SCGx rats as compared to sham-operated controls, 16–54 h after surgery. In rats exposed to ether or immobilization stress 22 h after SCGx, plasma ACTH levels were significantly higher than in controls; however, since unstressed ACTH levels were about twice as high in SCGx rats, the percent increase of ACTH was smaller in the SCGx group. A decreased response of plasma ACTH to ether or immobilization stress was found in rats 7 days after SCGx. In rats subjected to a simultaneous adrenalectomy (Adx) and SCGx or sham-SCGx, plasma ACTH levels increased to a similar extent in both groups. ACTH increase after Adx was accompanied by decreases in MBH CRH, and absence of significant changes in MBH AVP contents. Rats subjected to pinealectomy (Px) or sham-Px 1 week earlier and killed 22 h earlier exhibited similar responses in plasma ACTH and MBH CRH to SCGx regardless of pineal intactness. These results demonstrate a stimulatory, pineal-independent, effect on ACTH release of wallerian degeneration of nerve fibers in the superior cervical ganglia field of projection.