As the result of a single gene mutation, Sebright and Campine chickens have increased activity of cytochrome P-450 aromatase and increased formation of estrogen in extragonadal tissues. Affected roosters develop a feminizing state characterized by a feathering pattern typical of hens. In this paper we demonstrate that the expression of extraglandular aromatase in these chickens is due to the accumulation of aromatase mRNA similar to that expressed in the ovary of Leghorn and Campine hens. Furthermore, in fibroblasts cultured from Sebright skin, but not in normal Leghorn fibroblasts, aromatase mRNA levels are enhanced in response to 5-azacytidine and sodium butyrate, and aromatase mRNA levels in these fibroblasts correlate with enzymatic activity. We conclude that the accumulation of aromatase mRNA is a critical step in the expression of this mutation.