Prolonged stress is associated with the induction of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene expression in rat adrenal medulla. We have used transgenic mice expressing a transgene encoding 4.5 kb of rat TH gene 5' flanking region fused upstream of the structural gene encoding chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) to test whether cold exposure or immobilization stress regulates TH gene expression in mouse adrenal gland. Exposure of mice to cold for 3 days increases adrenal TH protein and enzymatic activity. Cold exposure also increases adrenal TH-CAT expression two- to threefold. Immobilization stress induces mouse adrenal TH-CAT expression after either one immobilization or multiple immobilizations. TH-CAT expression increases transiently after a single immobilization, but after multiple immobilizations the induction of TH-CAT is sustained for at least 24 h. TH protein and TH enzymatic activity in mouse adrenal gland are elevated 2.8-fold and 1.5-fold, respectively, after seven immobilizations, but are not increased after either one, two, or three immobilizations. These results indicate that cold exposure and immobilization stress induce adrenal TH gene expression at least partially by stimulating the transcription rate of the TH gene. Furthermore, as observed in the rat, multiple mechanisms apparently regulate adrenal TH gene transcription rate and TH enzyme induction depending on whether mice are subjected to a single immobilization or multiple immobilizations. Our results indicate that these transgenic mice are an excellent model system to study the molecular mechanisms regulating TH gene expression in adrenal medulla.