Dose-dependent and repeated-dose effects of methylprednisolone (MPL) on down-regulation of glucocorticoid receptor messenger RNA (GR mRNA) and GR density, as well as tyrosine aminotransferase (TAT) mRNA and TAT induction by receptor/gene-mediated mechanisms in rat liver were examined. A previously developed pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) model was used to design these studies which sought to challenge the model. Three groups of male adrenalectomized Wistar rats received MPL by i.v. injection: low-dose (10 mg/kg at Time 0), high-dose (50 mg/kg at Time 0), and dual-dose (50 mg/kg at Time 0 and 24 hr). Plasma concentrations of MPL, and hepatic content of free GR, GR mRNA, TAT mRNA, and TAT activity were determined. The P-Pharm program was applied for population analysis of MPL PK revealing low interindividual variation in CL and Vc values (3-14%). Two indirect response models were applied to test two competing hypotheses for GR mRNA dynamics. Indirect Pharmacodynamic Response Model I (Model A) where the complex in the nucleus decreases the transcription rate of GR mRNA better described GR mRNA/GR down-regulation. Levels of TAT mRNA began to increase at 1-2 hr, reached a maximum at 5-6 hr, and declined to the baseline at 12-14 hr after MPL dosing. The induction of TAT activity followed a similar pattern with a delay of about 1-2 hr. The low-dose group had 50-60% of the TAT mRNA and TAT induction compared to the high-dose group. Since the GR density returned to about 70% of the baseline level before the second 50 mg/kg dose at 24 hr, tolerance was found for TAT mRNA/TAT induction where only 50-60% of the initial responses were produced. Our fourth-generation model describes the dose dependence and tolerance effects of TAT mRNA/TAT induction by MPL involving multiple-step signal transduction controlled by the steroid regimen, free GR density, and GR occupancy. This model may provide the foundation for studying other induced proteins or enzymes mediated by the similar receptor/nuclear events.