Axon terminals in the posterior pituitary store large quantities of the hormone vasopressin (AVP), buffering the synthesizing neurons in the hypothalamus against acute changes in physiological demand for hormone release. The dynamics of pituitary AVP content reflect the competing processes of release and synthesis. This report demonstrates substantial increases in pituitary AVP content in the maturing rat. Between 7-10 weeks of age, the total pituitary AVP content in the rat increases from 957 +/- 72 to 1667 +/- 160 ng. Cross-sectional data indicate a parallel relationship between body weight and pituitary AVP content. Nevertheless, weight maintenance does not affect age-related increases in AVP content. Decreasing demand for hormone release and synthesis by inducing hyponatremia blocks subsequent pituitary accumulation. After withdrawing the hyponatremic experimental conditions, animals resume accumulation of pituitary AVP, but do not catch up to age-matched controls. This indicates that increases in pituitary AVP content do not result from a feedback signal from the neural lobe, but rather, pituitary AVP levels passively reflect changes in hormone release and compensatory synthesis.