CRH is the primary hypothalamic regulator of the stress response in higher organisms, where it acts as the key mediator of ACTH release in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The 37-kDa CRH-binding protein (CRH-BP) is known to bind CRH and antagonize CRH-induced ACTH release in vitro. The expression of this protein in anterior pituitary corticotrophs suggests a role for CRH-BP in modulation of the stress response. To investigate the in vivo role of rat CRH-BP, the regulation of pituitary CRH-BP gene expression by acute restraint stress and/or adrenalectomy was examined using ribonuclease protection assays. After restraint stress, steady-state levels of CRH-BP transcripts increase two to three times over basal level and remain significantly higher than basal levels for 120 min after the start of restraint. Adrenalectomy decreases CRH-BP messenger RNA steady-state levels to 8% of control levels. These results demonstrate that pituitary CRH-BP messenger RNA levels are increased in response to acute restraint stress and that glucocorticoids play a significant role in this positive regulation. These data also suggest that increased CRH-BP levels, in response to stress, may modulate the endocrine stress response by providing an additional feedback mechanism to maintain homeostasis of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis.