Utilization of cDNA probes specific for various components of the bovine adrenocortical steroidogenic pathway have led to the conclusion that there are three levels of regulation of steroid hydroxylase gene expression. In each case it is postulated that specific classes of proteins bind to regulatory regions of these genes and modulate their transcription. Throughout adult life, cAMP-dependent regulation via SHIP protein(s) is the predominant mechanism by which optimal steroidogenic capacity is maintained. A second type of regulation is tissue-specific. One subclass of tissue-specific expression is the "all-or-none" type whereby steroid 21-hydroxylase and 11 beta-hydroxylase gene expression occur only in adrenal cortex and not in other steroidogenic tissues. A second subclass of tissue-specific expression is the "variable" type whereby 17 alpha-hydroxylase and cholesterol side chain cleavage (SCC) activity are both expressed in ovarian thecal cells but only SCC activity is expressed in corpus luteum. The third type of regulation is cAMP-independent and leads to fetal-imprinting (initial expression of steroid hydroxylase genes during fetal life).