The Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus, is capable of surviving a wide range of salinities and temperatures. The present study was undertaken to investigate the influence of environmental salinity and temperature on osmoregulatory ability, organic osmolytes and plasma hormone profiles in the tilapia. Fish were acclimated to fresh water (FW), seawater (SW) or double-strength seawater (200% SW) at 20, 28 or 35 degrees C for 7 days. Plasma osmolality increased significantly as environmental salinity and temperature increased. Marked increases in gill Na(+), K(+)-ATPase activity were observed at all temperatures in the fish acclimated to 200% SW. By contrast, Na(+), K(+)-ATPase activity was not affected by temperature at any salinity. Plasma glucose levels increased significantly with the increase in salinity and temperature. Significant correlations were observed between plasma glucose and osmolality. In brain and kidney, content of myo-inositol increased in parallel with plasma osmolality. In muscle and liver, there were similar increases in glycine and taurine, respectively. Glucose content in liver decreased significantly in the fish in 200% SW. Plasma prolactin levels decreased significantly after acclimation to SW or 200% SW. Plasma levels of cortisol and growth hormone were highly variable, and no consistent effect of salinity or temperature was observed. Although there was no significant difference among fish acclimated to different salinity at 20 degrees C, plasma IGF-I levels at 28 degrees C increased significantly with the increase in salinity. Highest levels of IGF-I were observed in SW fish at 35 degrees C. These results indicate that alterations in gill Na(+), K(+)-ATPase activity and glucose metabolism, the accumulation of organic osmolytes in some organs as well as plasma profiles of osmoregulatory hormones are sensitive to salinity and temperature acclimation in tilapia.