Pubertal and young adult male rats release more luteinizing hormone (LH) in response to luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) if pretreated with LHRH than if pretreated with saline. Immature male rats do not show this self-priming effect. In order to examine the role of acute changes in testicular steroids in this process, immature (29-30 days old) or pubertal (50-51 days old) male rats were castrated or sham operated under ketamine HCl anesthesia. Beginning immediately after completion of the surgery, they were given three priming injections of 10 ng LHRH/100 g body wt or saline at 30-min intervals. Thirty minutes after the third priming injection, a blood sample was obtained by cardiac puncture followed immediately by a challenge injection of 50 ng LHRH/100 g body wt given to both saline and LHRH primed groups. Ten minutes after the challenge injection a final blood sample was obtained by heart puncture. Serum was assayed for LH concentration by radioimmunoassay. Sham-operated pubertal rats showed a typical self-priming effect. Animals pretreated with LHRH released significantly (P less than 0.01) more LH in response to the challenge injection than did rats pretreated with saline. Acute castration also resulted in a significant (P less than 0.001) self-priming effect in pubertal rats. As anticipated, sham castrated immature males did not show a self-priming effect. Acutely castrated immature rats however, showed a significant (P less than 0.05) self-priming effect. These data provide support for the hypothesis that, prior to puberty, increases in testosterone during the priming process inhibit the expression of the self-priming effect.