Rates of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) synthesis and levels of serotonin (5-HT) were measured in microdissected brain nuclei following castration or adrenalectomy of adult male rats. Fourteen days following gonadectomy, 5-HTP synthesis decreased in the nucleus raphe dorsalis (DR) and nucleus centralis superior (NCS), while levels of 5-HT were unchanged in the 7 brain nuclei examined. Administration of testosterone to castrated rats not only did not reverse the castration-induced decrease in 5-HTP synthesis in the DR and NCS, but also decreased 5-HT synthesis in the nucleus amygdaloideus centralis (AGC) and the nucleus septalis lateralis (LS). Following administration of testosterone, 5-HT levels were unchanged. 10 days following bilateral adrenalectomy, 5-HTP synthesis increased in the NCS and the median eminence. Levels of 5-HT increased only in the median eminence. The increased 5-HTP synthesis and 5-HT levels following adrenalectomy were not reversed by corticosterone administration. In addition, these selective changes in 5-HT metabolism did not result from hormonal effects on the availability of tryptophan to the brain. We conclude that there are subsets of serotonergic neurons in rat central nervous system which respond uniquely to removal of the gonads and adrenals. Furthermore, the dissociation between serum and brain tryptophan concentrations and changes in rates of 5-HTP synthesis argue against tryptophan availability as being a primary determinant of 5-HT biosynthesis and for a direct endocrine central nervous system interaction with serotonergic neurons.