The rat dentate gyrus is unusual among mammalian brain regions in that it shows cell birth well into adulthood. During development, dentate gyrus cell birth is regulated by adrenal steroids. However, it is presently unknown whether cell division in the adult is also mediated by these same factors. In order to determine whether this is the case, we combined adrenalectomy, with or without corticosterone (CORT) replacement, and 3H-thymidine autoradiography, Nissl staining, and immunohistochemistry for the glial cell markers vimentin and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) as well as for the neuronal marker neuron-specific enolase. Removal of circulating adrenal steroids resulted in a greater density of both GFAP-immunoreactive and vimentin- immunoreactive cells compared to sham-operated animals; CORT replacement prevented increases in both of these cell types. The increase in the density of vimentin-immunoreactive cells probably resulted from an increase in the birth of these cells, as adrenalectomized rats showed greater numbers of 3H-thymidine-labeled vimentin-positive cells compared to sham rats. In contrast, no changes in the number of 3H-thymidine-labeled GFAP-positive cells were observed with adrenalectomy, indicating that the increase in this cell type probably does not involve cell birth. In addition, the density of 3H- thymidine-labeled cells that were not immunoreactive for either glial cell marker and that showed neuronal characteristics was dramatically increased with adrenalectomy. These results suggest that adrenal hormones normally suppress the birth of both glia and neurons in the adult rat dentate gyrus.