Cardiovascular and metabolic adjustments during stress involve participation of the sympatho-adrenal and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical systems, which interact at several levels. The present study investigated the effects of removal of endogenous glucocorticoids on indices of norepinephrine release and metabolism and of catecholamine biosynthesis in sympathetic nerves, at baseline and in response to immobilization stress (IMMO) in rats. Plasma levels of the catecholamine precursor dihydroxyphenylalanine, norepinephrine (NE), the NE metabolites dihydroxyphenylglycol and methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol, dopamine, and the dopamine metabolites dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid were measured in adrenalectomized, adrenal-medullectomized, or sham-operated conscious rats, with or without glucocorticoid treatment (25 mg/kg.24 h cortisol for 7 days by osmotic minipumps), at rest and after 5, 20, 60, and 120 min of IMMO. Adrenalectomy eliminated plasma levels of epinephrine and corticosterone and augmented IMMO-induced increments in levels of NE, dihydroxyphenylglycol, methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol, dihydroxyphenylalanine, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, and homovanillic acid. Adrenal-medullectomy reduced plasma epinephrine, but not corticosterone, to undetectable levels at baseline and did not augment stress-induced responses of any of the measured compounds. Cortisol administration (plasma levels approximately 600 pmol/ml) reversed the augmentation of catecholaminergic responses in adrenalectomized rats. The results indicate that adrenalectomy stimulates several aspects of sympatho-neural function, including stress-induced increments in NE release, reuptake, metabolism, and turnover and in catecholamine biosynthesis. This augmentation was absent in adreno-medullectomized rats, indicating that the loss of adrenomedullary hormones after adrenalectomy does not appear to contribute to the augmentation. Since cortisol treatment reversed or prevented this augmentation, loss of feedback inhibition by endogenous glucocorticoids appears to be the basis of the enhanced responses. Thus, the results suggest that endogenous glucocorticoids restrain responses of catecholamine turnover, synthesis, release, reuptake, and metabolism in sympathetic nerves in this stress model.