Fragments of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) cell adenomas and anterior lobes of two patients with Cushing's disease were obtained by transnasal operation. Both patients showed the typical clinical course, with postoperative ACTH deficit and all other pituitary functions intact. Equivalent specimens of tissue were investigated by immunocytology and in a superfusion system. The majority of adenoma cells were ACTH-positive, whereas ACTH-secreting cells of the anterior lobes were mostly inactive and were reduced in number. In vitro, adenomatous tissue showed high ACTH secretion into the superfusion medium, which was increased significantly after vasopressin application. Corticoid feedback was impaired Anterior lobe cells exhibited a significant spontaneous ACTH secretion that was reduced by cortisol, but not stimulated by vasopressin. These results support the concept of an impaired corticoid feedback at the adenoma level in the presence of suppressed ACTH secretion of the para-adenomatous anterior lobe.