Abstract Exposure of male Sprague-Dawley rats to acute sound stress (2 s, 110 dB sound pulses presented randomly every minute for 1 h) increases the in vitro activity of cortical and midbrain tryptophan hydroxylase by an alkaline phosphatase-reversible mechanism. Repeated exposure to sound stress on three separate days produces a stable increase in enzyme activity that persists 24 h after the termination of the stress and is insensitive to alkaline phosphatase. Adrenalectomy abolishes both increases in enzyme activity to acute or repeated sound stress but does not change baseline levels of enzyme activity. The synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone, (500 μg/day i.p.) given for 3 days or 5 out of 6 days, starting day 3 after adrenalectomy, restores the increases in enzyme activity in adrenalectomized rats exposed, respectively, to acute or repeated sound stress. The mineralocorticoid, aldosterone (5 μg/day s.c.), does not substitute for dexamethasone in acutely sound-stressed, adrenalectomized rats. Dexamethasone does not alter control levels of enzyme activity in either adrenalectomized rats or rats with intact adrenals (sham-adrenalectomized), but is required to allow the increase in enzyme activity in response to acute or repeated sound stress to be expressed. The effect of the glucocorticoid, thus, appears to be a permissive one.