Dexamethasone is known to elicit an increase of tyrosine hydroxylase activity in the superior cervical ganglion. The details of such a glucocorticoid effect were investigated in the present study. Of 4 glucocorticoids (dexamethasone, corticosterone, hydrocortisone and triamcinolone) examined in rats, only the synthetic steroid dexamethasone was found to be effective in increasing ganglionic tyrosine hydroxylase activity (by 50% at 48 h after drug administration). Corticosterone even at doses as high as 50 mg/kg failed to show an effect. Since recent reports indicate that a cytoplasmic glucocorticoid receptor is not present in the sympathetic ganglion, it is unlikely that the dexamethasone effect involves a receptor-mediated mechanism. Moreover, the dexamethasone effect was totally blocked by chlorisondamine, a nicotinic cholinergic receptor antagonist. The possibility of an enhanced impulse flow from the CNS, however, was excluded by the finding that decentralization immediately prior to dexamethasone administration did not prevent the increase of ganglionic tyrosine hydroxylase activity, although earlier decentralization (24 h or longer) abolished the steroid effect. Significantly, in the freshly decentralized ganglia, the increase of tyrosine hydroxylase activity by dexamethasone was still blocked by chlorisondamine. Since synaptic activity in terminals is known to continue for a brief period following nerve transection, our data support the contention that the primary site of the dexamethasone effect may be the preganglionic terminals.