The hypophysiotropic coding of ACTH secretion resulting from insulin-induced hypoglycemia was investigated in urethane-anesthetized fasted rats. The participation of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), arginine vasopressin (AVP), and catecholamines in the ACTH response was first investigated by systemic administration of CRF antiserum, an AVP pressor antagonist, or a ganglionic blocking agent. These treatments were without effect on the hypoglycemic response, which was characterized by a 67% fall in systemic glucose levels within 30 min of insulin administration. ACTH secretion in response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia was differentially affected by these pharmacological treatments. Administration of antiserum to CRF abolished the ACTH response, whereas ganglionic blockade was without significant effect. However, administration of a vasopressinergic pressor antagonist significantly attenuated ACTH secretion after insulin treatment. These observations suggested the participation of both CRF and AVP in mediation of the ACTH secretory response to hypoglycemia. Infusion of glucose to counter the hypoglycemia action of insulin injection prevented the ACTH secretory response. Measurement of immunoreactive (ir) CRF, irAVP, and ir-oxytocin in sequential collections of hypophysial portal plasma revealed a significant elevation of irAVP concentration without concomitant elevation of irCRF or ir-oxytocin levels. We propose that CRF functions in a permissive role, maintaining a relatively constant portal concentration and thereby allowing expression of the weaker ACTH-releasing activity of AVP and other secretagogues. Thus, AVP, not CRF, appears to represent the dynamic mediator of ACTH secretion accompanying insulin-induced hypoglycemia. These observations provide additional support for the hypothesis of multifactor stimulus-specific hypophysiotropic coding of ACTH secretion.