The nervous system is dependent upon thyroid hormones for normal development, and we previously reported that developmental Aroclor 1254 (A1254) exposure caused hypothyroxinemia, hearing loss and other behavioral changes in rats. (Goldey et al., 1995a; Herr et al., 1996). The hypothesis that A1254-induced hypothyroxinemia may have contributed to the observed functional changes was tested in primiparous Long-Evans rats given daily oral doses of corn oil (control) or 8 mg/kg of Aroclor 1254 from gestation day (GD) 6 through postnatal day (PND) 21. In addition, from PND 4 to PND 21, all pups in one-half of the litters received daily, subcutaneous injections of saline or 100 micrograms/kg thyroxine (T4), to yield four groups of litters: corn oil plus saline (CO-S),. corn oil plus T4 (CO-T4), Aroclor 1254 plus saline (PCB-S), and Aroclor 1254 plus T4 (PCB-T4). We measured thyroid hormone concentrations (T4 and T3) in serum collected from 7-, 14-, and 21-day-old pups. The kinetics of the injected T4 were also monitored in the CO-T4 and PCB-T4 groups on PND 7 and 21 by measuring T4 and T3 at 1, 3, 5, 8, and 24 h after injection. Circulating T4 concentrations were dramatically depleted in the PCB-S group relative to CO-S. The kinetics study indicated that T4 therapy raised circulating T4 concentrations following in the PCB-T4 pups to near CO-S concentrations, but only for approximately 6 h postinjection, and T4 concentrations fell precipitously thereafter to near PCB-S concentrations. In accord with previous studies, PCB-S pups showed early eye opening, an effect which was exacerbated by T4 injection (in both the CO-T4 and the PCB-T4 groups). Motor activity (figure-eight maze) testing also replicated our finding of an age-dependent, transient reduction in motor activity on PND 15 that was significantly attenuated in the PCB-T4 group. Similarly, we again found reduced acoustic startle amplitudes on PND 23 and low-frequency (1 kHz) hearing loss in animals tested as adults (the latter determined by reflex modification audiometry). Importantly, the hearing loss at 1 kHz in PCB-exposed animals was significantly attenuated by T4 replacement therapy. These data suggest the hypothesis that hypothyroxinemia is involved in PCB-induced alterations in motor and auditory function, while other effects (e.g., eye opening) appear to have a different mechanism of action.