A fourth-generation pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) model for receptor/genemediated effects of corticosteroids was developed. Male adrenalectomized Wistar rats received a 50 mg/kg i.v. bolus dose of methylprednisolone (MPL). Plasma concentrations of MPL, hepatic glucocorticoid receptor (GR) messenger RNA (mRNA) and GR density, tyrosine amino-transferase (TAT) mRNA, and TAT activity in liver were determined at various time points up to 72 hr after MPL dosing. Down-regulation of GR mRNA and GR density were observed: GR mRNA level declined to 45-50% of the baseline in 8-10 hr, and slowly returned to predose level in about 3 days; GR density fell to 0 soon after dosing and returned to the baseline in two phases. The first phase, occurring in the first 10 hr, entailed recovery from 0 to 30%. The second phase was parallel to the GR mRNA recovery phase. Two indirect response models were applied for GR mRNA dynamics regulated by activated steroid-receptor complex. A full PK/PD model for GR mRNA/GR down-regulation was proposed, including GR recycling theory. TAT mRNA began to increase at about 1.5 hr, reached the maximum at about 5.5 hr, and declined to the baseline at about 14 hr after MPL dosing. TAT induction followed a similar pattern with a delay of about 1-2 hr. A transcription compartment was applied as one of the cascade events leading to TAT mRNA and TAT induction. Pharmacodynamic parameters were obtained by fitting seven differential equations piecewise using the maximum likelihood method in the ADAPT II program. This model can describe GR down-regulation and the precursor/product relationship between TAT mRNA and TAT in receptor/gene-mediated corticosteroid effects.