The 24-h profiles of plasma cortisol (F), 11-beta-hydroxyandrostenedione (11OHAD), androstenedione (AD), dehydroisoandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone (T) were obtained simultaneously in 11 normal males sampled at 15-min intervals. The data were submitted to a detailed quantitative analysis including the estimation of the circadian rhythm and of the episodic variations as well as the evaluation of the concomitance of episodic pulses of different hormones. A bimodal circadian rhythm was detected in the various individual profiles. The major acrophase occurred in the morning earlier for T (around 04:00 h) than for the hormones of totally or partially adrenal origin (around 07:00 h); the secondary acrophase (around 17:00 h) and the main midnight nadir were common to all hormones. The amplitude of the rhythm was highest for purely adrenal hormones (F and 11OHAD), averaging 79 and 75%, respectively, lower for hormones of mixed origin (DHEA and AD), averaging 44 and 42%, respectively, and minimal for T (22%). The possible relationship between the circadian and pulsatile variations of the various steroids was estimated in each individual by calculating Pearson's standard coefficient of variation on all pairs of hormonal profiles. A very tight relationship (r greater than 0.75; p less than 0.001) was found between the 4 adrenal hormones in each individual; a looser but significant correlation (r greater than 0.30; p less than 0.001) was also detected between T and its partial precursors (AD and DHEA) and between T and the purely adrenal hormones: F and 11OHAD (r greater than 0.30; p less than 0.01). The pulsatility of the corticotrophic axis was readily transmitted to the secretory pattern of 11OHAD, DHEA and AD. Ninety-six percent of the F pulses were reflected in at least one other hormonal profile. Finally, we showed that concomitant pulses common to the five adrenal and gonadal patterns were more frequent than would be expected on the basis of chance. These results: demonstrate a total parallelism between the long-lasting secretory events and the episodic bursts of the 4 adrenal hormones showing that the reticular and fascicular zones of the adrenal respond to pituitary control as an homogeneous structure; demonstrate the existence of a partial synchronization of adrenal and testicular pulsatile variations; suggest that, throughout the afternoon, a common mechanism may influence the slow variations of adrenal hormones and of testicular testosterone.