Effects of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) on the development of rat offspring were studied after administration of a loading dose of 300 or 1000 ng TCDD/kg body wt on day 19 of pregnancy, followed by weekly maintenance doses of 120 or 400 ng TCDD/kg body wt. The dose regimens led to a fluctuation of average TCDD concentrations in the liver of the offspring of 4.9-14.9 ng/g (TCDD1000/400 group) or 1.4-6.3 ng/g (TCDD300/120 group) during the course of the experiment. In both TCDD-exposed groups the body weight of the offspring was significantly lower on postnatal day 7 (PND 7); in the high dose group from PND 7 to PND 31. Some landmarks of postnatal development were retarded in the exposed groups; in particular, the vaginal opening was delayed for several days in both TCDD-exposed groups. The TCDD-exposed animals revealed a reduced ability to remain on a rotating rod. During reflex testing, the rate of successfully responding animals was higher in the exposed groups. No statistically significant differences in the locomotor activity between controls and TCDD-exposed offspring were detectable under our experimental conditions. In a discrimination learning test no effects on the learning ability were found. However, TCDD-exposed offspring showed an increase in unanswered trials during critical phases of the task. They also exhibited increased locomotor activity in a novel environment; prior to an amphetamine challenge dose of 1 mg/kg body weight. Amphetamine-induced activity was decreased in a dose-dependent manner.