The contribution of growth hormone (GH), released during acute and repeated stressful situations, to the development of stress-related disorders is often neglected. We have hypothesized that the modulation of the GH response to sequential stress exposure in humans depends mainly on the nature of the stressor. To test this hypothesis, we compared GH responses to different stressful situations, namely aerobic exercise, hypoglycemia and hyperthermia, which were applied in two sequential sessions separated by 80-150 min. In addition, administration of the dopaminergic drug apomorphine was used as a pharmacological stimulus. GH responses to submaximal exercise (bicycle ergometer, increasing work loads of 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 W/kg, total duration 20 min) and hyperthermia in a sauna (80 degrees C, 30 min) were prevented when preceded by the same stress stimulus. Hypoglycemia induced by insulin (0.1 IU/kg intravenously) resulted in a significant GH response also during the second of the two consecutive insulin tests, though the response was reduced. Administration of apomorphine (0.75 mg subcutaneously) or insulin prevented the increase in GH release in response to a sequential bolus of apomorphine, while hypoglycemia induced a significant elevation in GH levels even if applied after a previous treatment with apomorphine. In conclusion, the feedback inhibition of the GH response to a sequential stress stimulus depends on the stimulus used. Unlike in the case of exercise and hyperthermia, mechanisms involved in the stress response to hypoglycemia appear to overcome the usual feedback mechanisms and to re-induce the GH response when applied after another stimulus.