We examined the effect of chronic hypo- and hyper- thyroidism on angiotensinogen (AOG) gene expression in rat liver and brain. Chronic hypothyroidism resulted in approximately a 50% decrease in plasma AOG and AOG messenger RNA (mRNA) concentrations in liver, diencephalon, and brain stem. In contrast, plasma AOG and liver AOG mRNA concentrations were elevated by about 75% during hyperthyroidism, but no change was seen in diencephalon and brain stem. In vitro, the effect of T3 on AOG secretion by rat hepatoma cell lines H35 and H4IIEC-3 depended on the type of cell line used and on the growth status of the cells. At confluency, H35 cells were more responsive to T3 than H4IIEC-3 cells. In addition, subconfluent H35 cells were less responsive to T3 than confluent ones, although no difference was observed in the number of nuclear T3 binding sites or in the responsiveness to dexamethasone. T3 also increased AOG mRNA concentration in confluent H35 cells. Finally, AOG secretion by primary cultures of rat astrocytes increased approximately 1.8-fold following exposure to T3. The fact that T3 increased the production of AOG by these various types of cell culture in vitro suggests that it acted directly upon these cells, and that the effect of thyroid hormone was not dependent on the prior stimulation of another hormone. However, the difference in responsiveness between confluent and subconfluent H35 cells indicates that the action of thyroid hormones may be dependent on the induction of secondary genes within these cells.