The dose of nicotine and the frequency of its administration appear to be essential determinants of its action on multiple systems including the neuroendocrine regulation of the adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)-corticosterone and prolactin (PRL) axes in the rat. Because desensitization to the acute depressive effects of nicotine has been observed after both acute and chronic administration, these investigations assessed whether desensitization to the stimulative effects of nicotine on ACTH and PRL secretion occurs with repetitive dosing. Extensive dose and time course experiments showed that nicotine rapidly elevates rat plasma ACTH and PRL levels with a threshold dose between 0.1 to 0.25 mg/kg b.wt. i.p. After the stimulation of PRL, levels became significantly depressed. Desensitization to the acute stimulatory effects of nicotine on both hormones was induced by a single dose of nicotine (0.5 mg/kg). One hour later nicotine (1.0 mg/kg) failed to significantly stimulate PRL levels and resulted in a modest increase of ACTH. Desensitization was maximal by 1 hr after the first dose and persisted for at least 6 hr. Adrenalectomy, performed to eliminate corticosterone-induced negative feedback, did not enhance PRL responsiveness to a second dose of nicotine but it partially restored the ACTH response. Pretreatment with corticosterone also failed to modify the PRL response to a single dose of nicotine whereas it partially suppressed the ACTH response. Rapid desensitization to the acute stimulatory effects of nicotine on plasma PRL is independent of glucocorticoid negative-feedback whereas desensitization of the ACTH response is modestly dependent.