Anomalies in hormonal and neurotransmitter status during perinatal period can lead to lifespan alterations in the central nervous system. Vasopressin is present early in the brain and has various mitogenic, metabolic and physiological actions, e.g. in water homeostasis or in the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Therefore we examine the possible role of vasopressin in perinatal development with special attention to the influence of maternal genotype and to the HPA axis regulation. We compared homozygous vasopressin deficient (di/di) Brattleboro rats to their heterozygous (di/+) littermates both from di/+ and di/di mother. Higher locomotion due to reduced adaptation was present at preweaning. During the first 10 days of life the di/di pups from di/di mother were the smallest, while in the later perinatal period the genotype of the pups became the more important determinant of the somatic development, namely the di/di pups from both mothers had reduced weight gain. Generally the lack of vasopressin in the pups fastened the somatic development (pinna detachment, eye and ear opening, incisor eruption) however the neurobehavioral development (palmar grasp reflex, righting reflex, negative geotaxis, etc.) was not influenced profoundly by either the mother's or the pup's genotype. The lack of vasopressin in pups abolished the 24 h maternal separation induced adrenocorticotrop hormone (ACTH) elevation while the accompanying corticosterone rises were even higher. The vasopressin deficiency of the mother reduced the resting ACTH and all corticosterone levels in all pups. So we can conclude that the lack of vasopressin speeds up the development, probably there is a greater drive for self-sufficiency in these animals. The mother's vasopressin deficiency reduced the HPA axis reactivity of the pups. The role of vasopressin in the HPA axis regulation is important during the perinatal period independently from the mother's genotype. The large discrepancy between ACTH and corticosterone regulation requires further studies.