Sex differences in the hypothalamic control of growth hormone (GH) secretion were investigated by measuring rat GH-releasing factor (rGRF) and somatostatin in male and female rats. Rat GRF-like immunoreactivity (rGRF-IR) was higher in the median eminence and hypothalamic tissue outside of the median eminence of adult (90-day-old) male compared to female rats. A similar pattern of rGRF-IR content was found in the median eminence of 35-day-old rats. This sex difference developed between days 25 and 35 of age, during which time serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and body weight increased in both sexes. To a lesser extent, the content of somatostatin-like immunoreactivity (SLI) was higher in the median eminence of adult female rats compared to male rats. Whole hypothalamic rGRF-IR and SLI contents were influenced only moderately by adult gonadectomy or gonadal steroid treatments. For example, estrogen increased rGRF-IR content in castrated rats, but orchidectomy alone or orchidectomy followed by testosterone did not influence rGRF-IR content. Additionally, whole hypothalamic SLI content was unaffected by orchidectomy or orchidectomy followed by testosterone or estrogen. One month after ovariectomy, rGRF-IR and SLI in whole hypothalamic fragments were similar to their respective contents in gonad-intact males. However, ovariectomy followed by estrogen or testosterone did not restore rGRF-IR content and partially restored SLI content to levels seen in gonad-intact females.