Corticosterone levels and ulcers were compared in vasopressin-containing (LE) and vasopressin-deficient (DI) rats under ad lib and food-restricted conditions. In the ad lib situation, DI and LE rats had similar corticosterone levels and no ulcers. After 1 day of food restriction, the corticosterone levels were elevated in DI and LE rats, with a significantly higher level in LE rats. No ulcers were present in either strain. After 2 days of food restriction, the corticosterone levels were similar in DI and LE rats. The level in DI rats was comparable to that of the preceding day, but the level in LE animals dropped significantly from the previous day. Significant ulceration was evident in DI rats, but absent in LE rats. Following 3 days of food restriction, the corticosterone level in LE rats had returned to the ad lib level, whereas, for DI rats, an elevated level was maintained. There were no ulcers in LE rats, but they were present in DI rats. Thus LE and DI rats responded differently to the stress of food restriction. The mechanism underlying the response is most likely related to changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and its reaction to stress.