The synthesis of uteroglobin in rabbit lung was studied after the administration of glucocorticoids to intact adult animals as well as during the late stages of rabbit development. The synthesis of uteroglobin was compared with levels of translatable uteroglobin mRNA in the lung. Uteroglobin synthesis was determined both by incorporation of [25S]methionine into the protein by lung explants incubated in vitro and by radioimmunoassay measurements of uteroglobin concentration in lung. Lung poly(A)-containing mRNA, isolated by oligo(dT)--cellulose chromatography, was translated in cell-free systems and the activity of uteroglobin mRNA was determined after immunoprecipitation. Dexamethasone administration increased about 2-fold the synthesis of lung uteroglobin compared with the controls. The effect of cortisol was more moderate. Both glucocorticoids did not affect the degradation rate of lung uteroglobin, but produced increases in the translatable levels of uteroglobin mRNA parallel to those observed for uteroglobin synthesis. During the late stages of rabbit development, both the synthesis of lung uteroglobin and the translatable levels of its mRNA increase in parallel about 12-fold in a biphasic fashion. A first increase occurred between 2 days before and 2 days after birth. Starting at 5 days of age, there was a second increase in both parameters, which at 12 days of age reached values close to those observed in adult rabbits. Our results suggest that the rate of lung uteroglobin synthesis could be mainly determined by the translatable levels of its mRNA.