The cortisol response to ipsapirone (a 5-HT1A-partial agonist that produces a dose-dependent increase in plasma cortisol secretion in man) is blunted in major depression. Buspirone is another 5-HT1A agonist that increases cortisol secretion in man. This study investigated cortisol and prolactin (PRL) responses to buspirone (30 mg orally) in 45 major depressed subjects and 28 normal controls. Buspirone administration yielded a significant increase in cortisol and PRL levels in both normal controls and depressed subjects. No differences in buspirone-induced hormone responses were found either between major depressives and normal controls or between melancholic and nonmelancholic depressives. There were no significant relationships between severity of depression and any of the hormonal responses to buspirone. PRL responses to buspirone were significantly higher in women than in men.