Circulating plasma ACTH and corticosterone levels were measured in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and the corresponding, normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) strain at 10 and 20 days of age. In addition, stored levels of ACTH were measured in the pituitary glands of these animals. Circulating corticosterone levels were significantly lower, in both strains, at 10 days than at 20 days. Although the glucocorticoid was undetectable in WKY animals at 10 days, significant levels were observed in age-matched SHR. No difference in corticosterone concentrations was observed between the two strains at 20 days. Circulating ACTH levels did not reflect the values for circulating glucocorticoids. There were no significant differences in the levels of ACTH between strains or between age groups. Moreover, pituitary stores of ACTH between animals of different strains and ages were not found to be significantly different among any of the groups tested. These results demonstrate that there is a difference in circulating corticosterone levels between spontaneously hypertensive and Wistar-Kyoto rats at 10 days postnatally which is not evident just prior to weaning (20 days). This difference is not due to variations in stored or circulating ACTH. Indeed, ACTH levels are high at a time (10 days) when corticosterone is low - thus suggesting that the difference may reside within the responsiveness of the adrenal cortex.