• glucocorticoids receptor;
  • hypothalamus;
  • interrenal axis;
  • oestrogen receptor;
  • pituitary gland;
  • stress response

The purpose of this overview is to re-examine the postulated direct and indirect actions of glucocorticoids on ovarian function in teleosts. The re-examination is undertaken in light of recent advances in the understanding of the stress response itself, the mode of action of the hypothalamus–pituitary gland–ovarian (HPO) axis, the mechanisms of control of oestrogen-dependent hepatic vitellogenin (VtG) secretion and the apparent roles of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and CRH-related factors in the regulation of feeding activity. Many of the results of different studies, particularly whole-animal studies, are conflicting, and little is known as to whether the hormone acts directly on various components of the HPO axis or indirectly by virtue of redirection of energy resources away from ovarian growth to provide a source of metabolic resources for other organ systems involved in the physiological stress response. In vitro studies provide some new insights into the direct actions of glucocorticoid on hepatic VtG synthesis and ovarian follicle steroidogenesis, but even here, in some studies the cellular sites of action of these hormones is not altogether clear. The overview emphasizes the complexity of the stress response, the complexity of the regulation of glucocorticoid-dependent gene expression and the extensive interactive nature of the HPO with other hypothalamus–pituitary gland–peripheral endocrine gland axes, such as the thyroid (HPT), ‘somatic’ (GH-IGF) and interrenal tissue (HPI) axes.