To investigate possible gender- and age-associated changes of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis at baseline and during stress, we studied healthy young (3-month) and old (23-month) female 344/N Fischer rats at the basal state and after 2 h of immobilization (IMMO), in parallel to age-matched male rats. At baseline, there were no major differences of HPT axis functions between young female and male animals. Old age was associated with impaired central thyroid function in both genders, albeit to a much lesser extent in females than in males. Plasma prolactin (PRL) levels were similar in young females and males but were higher in old females than males. IMMO inhibited HPT axis functions in both genders in young, but not old animals. Thus, plasma TSH and hypothalamic TRH mRNA levels were decreased by IMMO in young, but not in old rats of both genders. IMMO increased plasma PRL in young and old males, but did not have any effect in young and old females. In summary, these data indicate that age and gender exert diverse effects on HPT axis functions at baseline and after stress.