Serum androgen-binding capacity in Djungarian hamsters, as in many other mammals, increases within days after birth and remains elevated until puberty. This increased activity has been attributed to a hepatic glycoprotein, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), but expression of SHBG by the postnatal liver has not been demonstrated. Therefore, a full-length SHBG cDNA was cloned from the liver of neonatal hamsters and the expression of SHBG during development was examined. Hepatic SHBG RNA levels, as measured by both competitive RT-PCR and Northern analysis, were very low in fetal animals but increased significantly within 24 h of birth. Maximal values were maintained for 1 week after parturition, and then declined to basal adult levels. The developmental pattern in hepatic SHBG immunoactivity, as determined by Western analysis, mirrored that of hepatic SHBG mRNA. However, changes in serum SHBG immunoactivity and steroid-binding activity occurred approximately 1 week later. There were no sex differences in the levels of hepatic SHBG mRNA or protein during development, but serum immunoactivity tended to be higher in females at puberty. Sex- and age-related differences in the relative abundance of SHBG isoforms were also noted. Results of these studies demonstrate that Djungarian hamsters express an authentic SHBG and indicate that the postnatal surge in serum androgen-binding activity is due to perinatal up-regulation of SHBG expression.