The effects of dietary magnesium (Mg) depletion on thyroid function were studied in young male rats. The rats were fed a semipurified diet containing either 12 ppm Mg (deficient rats) or 662 ppm Mg (control rats) for 14 to 28 days. Results showed that the Mg-deficient rats had decreased body weight gain, lowered concentrations of plasma thyroxine (T4) and Mg, but increased weight of the thyroid gland when expressed in proportion to the body weight (milligrams/100 g). There was no difference in the accumulation (uptake) of 131I, 24 hours after Na131I injection, between the Mg-deficient and Mg-supplemented rats. The protein-bound 131I (PB131I) level and the ratio of PB131I to total 131I in plasma was significantly reduced in Mg-deficient rats. Serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels after thyrotropin-releasing hormone injection (TRH, 50 ng/100 g body weight) increased fivefold at 30 minutes, but declined to near the basal level at 2 hours in both groups. No consistent difference in TSH response was observed between the two treatments. Serum T4 response to TRH challenge was significantly reduced in Mg-deficient as compared to Mg-adequate rats at all time intervals. The reduction of T4 level could be due to an impaired T4 synthesis or release in Mg-deficient rats.