Immunoreactive (ir) plasma beta-endorphin level was assayed in ten symptomatic patients with a unipolar major depressive disorder and in 16 psychiatrically normal controls matched for age and sex. Plasma ir-beta-endorphin level in depressed patients was similar to that in controls. All depressed patients was similar to that in controls. All depressed patients had a transient, approximately threefold increase in ir-beta-endorphin after each use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The increase of plasma ir-beta-endorphin level after ECT parallels the transient elevation of adrenocorticotropic hormone level reported by others and probably reflects a hypothalamic response to ECT.