Abstract Administration of estrogen to egg-laying vertebrates activates unscheduled, hepatic expression of major, egg-yolk protein genes in immature animals and mature males. Two avian yolk protein genes, encoding very low density apolipoprotein II (apoVLDLII) and vitellogenin II, are dormant prior to stimulation with estrogen, but within three days their cognate mRNAs accumulate to become two of the most abundant species in the liver. Accumulation of these mRNAs has been attributed to both induction of transcription and selective, estrogen-dependent mRNA stabilization. We have detected alterations in the size of apoVLDLII mRNA that occur during the first 24 hours that are attributable to a shift in the extent of polyadenylation as steady-state is approached. In vitro transcription assays indicate that primary activation of both genes takes place relatively slowly and that maximal rates of mRNA accumulation occur when the apoVLDLII and vitellogenin II genes are expressed at only 30% and 10% of their fully induced levels, respectively. Transcription data combined with the structural alteration of apoVLDLII mRNA suggest that stability of the two mRNAs may change as steady-state is approached. We have assessed the compatibility of this suggestion with earlier estimates of the kinetics of accumulation of both mRNAs by developing a generally useful algorithm that predicts approach to steady-state kinetics under conditions where both the rate of synthesis and mRNA stability change throughout the accumulation phase of the response. The results predict that the stability of both mRNAs decreases by at least two- to threefold during the approach to steady-state and that, although an additional destabilization of apoVLDLII mRNA may occur following withdrawal of estrogen, the steady-state stability of vitellogenin mRNA is not significantly decreased upon removal of hormone.