The aim of these studies was to characterize the ovine corticosteroid receptors (MR, mineralocorticoid receptors and GR, glucocorticoid receptors) in ovine hippocampus and brainstem. Adrenal-intact and adrenalectomized ewes were studied; adrenalectomized ewes were killed 47 ± 9 h after steroid withdrawal, when symptoms of hypotension and/or hyperkalemia became evident. RT-PCR, immunoblotting and pharmacologic studies indicated the presence of both MR and GR in hippocampus and brainstem. Competitive binding studies using <sup>3</sup>H-cortisol in brain tissue showed that the ovine MR binds cortisol, aldosterone and progesterone with equal affinity. Differences in receptor availability in intact and adrenalectomized ewes, along with determination of the binding affinity (K<sub>d</sub>) of MR and GR, suggested that MR occupancy is about 90%, whereas GR occupancy is about 30%, in normal animals. There was a significant increase in protein level of MR in brainstem, and the appearance of a higher molecular weight band for MR in hippocampus following steroid withdrawal, however no significant change in mRNA was detected by semiquantitative RT-PCR for either MR or GR in hippocampus or brainstem following steroid withdrawal. These studies suggest that physiological ligands of MR in the sheep brain include progesterone and cortisol, and that, as in other species, affinity of MR for cortisol is greater than that of GR.