Vinclozolin and p,p'-DDE induce antiandrogenic developmental effects in vivo and are potent inhibitors of androgen receptor (AR) binding and AR-dependent gene expression in vitro. To determine whether this molecular mechanism is operative in vivo, the effects of these compounds on two androgen-regulated prostatic mRNAs were studied. Rats were sham operated or castrated and immediately implanted with one or two empty 2.5-cm silastic capsules or with one (1x) or two (2x) 2.5-cm capsules containing testosterone (T). T-implanted rats were treated by gavage for 4 days with vehicle (corn oil), vinclozolin (200 mg/kg/day), p,p'-DDE (200 mg/kg/day), or the antiandrogen flutamide (100 mg/kg/day) as a positive control. Vinclozolin, p,p'-DDE, and flutamide all induced a reciprocal decline in seminal vesicle (p < 0.01) and prostate (p < 0.01) weight as well as a reduction in immunohistochemical staining of AR in epididymal nuclei compared to vehicle-treated T-implanted controls. Specific AR antagonism was assessed by determining the ability of these chemicals to induce a testosterone-repressed prostatic message (i.e., TRPM-2) and/or repress a testosterone-induced prostatic message (i.e., prostatein subunit C3). Densitometry scans of Northern blots indicated that vinclozolin, p,p'-DDE, and flutamide each induced TRPM-2 mRNA and repressed C3 mRNA compared to vehicle-treated T-implanted controls. These antiandrogenic effects were competitively reduced in castrate rats implanted with two 2.5-cm T capsules (2x), where serum T levels were elevated more than twofold above physiological levels. Taken together, these data indicate that vinclozolin and p,p'-DDE act as antiandrogens in vivo by altering the expression of androgen-dependent genes.