1. This study was conducted to determine whether chronic psychosocial conflict alters the expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) mRNA in the hippocampus of male tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri). 2. To generate probes for the in situ hybridization, the tree shrew GR gene was partly cloned. There was a 90% homology between the deduced amino acid sequence of the cloned tree shrew GR and that of the corresponding human GR sequence. 35S-Labeled riboprobes which had been transcribed from the tree shrew GR clone hybridized to pyramidal neurons in all subregions of the tree shrew hippocampal formation and to granule neurons in the dentate gyrus. 3. After in situ hybridization, the expression of GR mRNA was semiquantitatively determined by counting silver grains over single neurons of the hippocampal formation of psychosocially stressed tree shrews and control animals. After 12 days of social conflict, the number of silver grains in the CA1 and CA3 pyramidal neurons of stressed animals was significantly lower than in controls. No statistically significant differences in mRNA expression were observed in the pyramidal neurons of the subiculum and in the granule neurons of the dentate gyrus. 4. The present results suggest that psychosocial stress leads to a site-specific down-regulation of hippocampal GR via modification of mRNA expression.