ABSTRACT: The Cres gene defines a new subgroup in the family 2 cystatins of cysteine protease inhibitors. However, unlike typical cystatins, CRES does not inhibit cysteine proteases but rather inhibits the serine protease prohormone convertase 2, an enzyme with roles in proprotein processing in the neuroendocrine system. Cres is expressed in the gonadotropes and colocalizes with LHβ, suggesting a role in the regulation of gonadotrope secretion. Our present studies were carried out to examine the regulation of Cres mRNA and protein expression by GnRH and steroid hormones, thus providing clues regarding its role in gonadotropes. Castration profoundly reduced Cres mRNA, while replacement with estradiol (E2), testosterone (T), or dihydrotestosterone (DHT) further decreased Cres, suggesting negative regulation by GnRH or steroid hormones. The administration of Antide, a GnRH antagonist, resulted in a 3-fold increase in Cres mRNA, supporting a negative regulation by GnRH. Because all hormonal manipulations in vivo resulted in alterations in steroid hormones, organ culture was used to assess the effects of GnRH independent of steroids. Mouse pituitaries cultured in the absence of GnRH or steroids showed high Cres mRNA levels, while DHT or E2 resulted in decreases of 25% and 68%, respectively. However, an 85% decrease in Cres mRNA occurred following the administration of GnRH, demonstrating that GnRH, and to a lesser degree E2, negatively regulate Cres mRNA in gonadotropes. Examination of CRES protein by immunohistochemistry showed that levels were profoundly reduced following castration, while DHT and in part T, but not E2, restored CRES levels. Castrated mice treated with Antide showed little effect. However, castrated mice treated with Antide + DHT showed a dramatic recovery of CRES, suggesting that androgens act directly at the level of the gonadotrope to regulate CRES protein. Together, our studies suggest that Cres mRNA and protein are low at peak gonadotrope secretory activity, possibly as a means to allow proprotein processing events to occur that are integral to gonadotrope function.