The effect of mifepristone (RU 486), a blocker of type II glucocorticoid receptors on the development of obesity that follows the feeding of a high-fat (HF) diet to Osborne-Mendel (OM) rats, has been investigated. OM rats fed a HF diet gained more weight and had larger retroperitoneal and parametrial fat pads than OM rats fed a high-carbohydrate low-fat (LF) diet. RU 486 (30 mg.kg-1.day-1) for 14 days completely reversed the body weight gain and the increase in fat pad size of OM rats fed a HF diet. RU 486 had no effect on body weight of OM rats fed a LF diet, but did reduce fat pad weights. The data suggest that type II glucocorticoid receptor activity modulates body fat deposition and is essential for the development of obesity, although a minor role for progestin receptor activity cannot be ruled out.