Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) beta, luteinizing hormone (LH) beta, and alpha subunit messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were examined in rats after castration and sex-steroid replacement. Subunit mRNAs were determined by blot hybridization using rat FSH beta genomic DNA, and alpha and LH beta complementary DNA (cDNA). Rat FSH beta mRNA is 1.7 kilobase in size. After ovariectomy, female FSH beta mRNA levels increased fourfold, whereas those of LH beta and alpha increased twenty- and eightfold, respectively. With estradiol, all subunits returned toward normal levels. Male LH beta and alpha mRNA levels rose eight- and fourfold, respectively, 40 d postcastration, but FSH beta mRNA levels increased minimally. After 7 d of testosterone propionate, LH beta and alpha mRNAs declined to normal levels, whereas FSH beta mRNA increased slightly. We conclude that in female rats FSH beta is negatively regulated by gonadal steroids, but to a lesser extent than LH beta or alpha mRNAs, and there is a differential regulation of FSH beta mRNA levels in males as compared with females at the time points examined.