Several quantitative and morphometric parameters were analysed in the pars principalis of the supraoptic nucleus (SON) of the hypothalamus in control and hypophysectomised rats at several postnatal ages. The cell number in the control group remained approximately constant from Day 1, when it was 5034 +/- 348 (mean +/- S.D.M.), until Day 90 when the number of cells was 5234 +/- 110. In the group that was hypophysectomised on Day 60, the number of neurons on Day 90 was 1366 +/- 131, which represents a loss of 74% of the neurons. Morphometric parameters on Day 90 indicated a significant difference in nuclear size, 52.1 +/- 6.7 microns 2 in controls and 57.3 +/- 6.8 microns 2 in the hypophysectomised group. Based on these results, it is concluded that there is no postnatal loss of neurons in the pars principalis of the SON in normal rats. As a consequence of the stress induced by hypophysectomy, the remaining cell population undergoes adaptive changes in the nuclear RNA synthesis machinery of neurohypophyseal hormone precursors in order to compensate for the reduction in the number of neurosecretory neurons.