The present studies were undertaken to investigate the effect of gender on thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) gene expression in cultured anterior pituitary (AP) cells. AP cells derived from 15-day-old male, female, or female pups that had been neonatally treated with testosterone propionate (TP), were cultured for up to 18 days in a modified DMEM/L-15 medium containing 10% fetal calf serum. TRH and AP hormones including GH, prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH) and thyrotropin (TSH) were measured by RIA, proTRH mRNA was determined by in situ hybridization using a full-length riboprobe followed by quantification with a computer-assisted image analysis system. Cultures derived from female rats contained significantly (p < 0.01) higher amounts of TRH and secreted approximately twice (p < 0.01) as much TRH under basal conditions and in response to activators of the protein kinase A and C pathways, respectively. In situ hybridization studies revealed that ‘female’ cultures contained significantly higher amounts of proTRH mRNA compared to ‘male’ cultures. Computer-assisted image analysis demonstrated that proTRH mRNA levels were 3.5 times higher in ‘female’ compared to ‘male’ cultures (p < 0.01), an effect that was the result of a significantly higher number (3 times; p < 0.01) of cells expressing proTRH mRNA in ‘female’ cultures. Neonatal TP treatment did not affect either proTRH mRNA or TRH peptide levels. In vitro testosterone treatment resulted in a moderate rise (p < 0.05) of intracellular TRH accumulation in cultures from both sexes, however, proTRH mRNA levels remained unchanged. Gender-specific differences were also found in the contents of all AP hormones measured: GH and TSH were significantly higher in ‘male’ cultures, while ‘female’ cultures contained larger amounts of LH and PRL. The results show that gender determines the level of TRH gene expression in cultured AP cells. Neonatal androgen exposure does not appear to be a determinant in the sex-specific differences observed.