The dose-related effects of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) were studied in B6D2F1/J (B6D), C57BL/6J (C57), and DBA/2J (DBA) mice. A 14-fold difference in lethality was observed in C57 and DBA mice, based upon 30-day LD50 values of 182 and 2570 micrograms TCDD/kg body wt, respectively. The 30-day LD50 for B6D mice was 296 micrograms TCDD/kg body wt. A progressive loss of body weight in all strains of mice was observed during the 30-day LD50 studies, with maximal weight losses of 24.7, 34.0, and 33.4% prior to death of C57, B6D, and DBA mice, respectively. In separate experiments, it was found that decreased feed consumption did not contribute to weight loss in C57 mice exposed to lethal or sublethal doses of TCDD until the animals were moribund. Time-course studies in C57 mice treated with 200 micrograms TCDD/kg body wt indicated that decreases in serum glucose and triglyceride concentrations and increases in hepatic triglyceride content occurred within 4 to 8 days of exposure, and were maximally altered within 17 to 21 days postexposure, concomitant with a 25% body weight loss. C57 mice fasted for 24 to 96 hr lost 18% of body weight and also exhibited alterations in glucose and lipid parameters; however, these changes were substantially different than the effects of TCDD exposure. In concert, these observations demonstrate that decreased feed consumption (hypophagia) does not account for weight loss and changes in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in TCDD-treated C57 mice. Dose-response experiments resulted in comparable changes in glucose and lipid parameters when DBA mice were exposed to 10-fold higher doses of TCDD than C57 mice. Parallel LD50 responses and parallel changes in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, at 10- to 15-fold differences in dose range, are indicative of a common mechanism of toxicity in TCDD-treated C57 and DBA mice.