Endotoxin-stimulated glucocorticoid-antagonizing factor (GAF) was assayed by its specific inhibition of hydrocortisone-induced synthesis of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase. Defined induction of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase synthesis in hydrocortisone-treated rat hepatoma cells permitted reliable quantitation of GAF and analysis of the mechanism of cortisol antagonism. GAF was present maximally in serum 2 hours after endotoxin challenge in mice; however, GAF production could be suppressed by pretreating mice with indomethacin or cortisol. Endotoxin-tolerant mice were also nonresponsive to endotoxin-stimulated GAF production. Gel filtration on Sephadex G-200 resolved four regions of glucocorticoid-antagonizing activity in serum from endotoxin-poisoned mice, two of which were not present in normal serum. Cortisol antagonism by GAF resembled that of insulin; however, insulin differed from GAF in its ability to antagonize dibutyryl cyclic AMP. Unlike insulin, endotoxin-induced serum glucocorticoid-antagonizing activity was heat-labile at 70 degrees C. GAF antagonism of hydrocortisone was partially reversible but did not act in a competitive manner. Production of hepatoma growth inhibitory activity and glucocorticoid-antagonizing activity in serum were closely associated, indicating a common methanism for their generation.