The molecular mechanisms by which corticosteroids regulate epithelial sodium transport remain to be fully elucidated. Expression of the serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase (sgk) has recently been reported to be regulated acutely by corticosteroids in the amphibian A6 cell line and in cortical collecting tubule cells in vitro. In order to extend this observation to a mammalian system in vivo, the acute response of the sgk gene to a single parenteral dose of aldosterone or dexamethasone was examined in the rat kidney and distal colon. The sgk mRNA levels were significantly elevated by both steroids by 30 min in the distal colon, reaching a peak at 2 h. A more modest increase in sgk mRNA levels was also seen in the kidney in response to both steroids. In both tissues, sgk mRNA has a very short half-life. As for other corticosteroid-regulated genes, the response appears to be mediated by both the mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors. The response to aldosterone in the distal colon in the presence of cycloheximide was superinduced, strongly suggesting that this is a primary response. The responses to both adrenalectomy and carbenoxolone sodium treatment suggest that the observed responses to corticosteroids can occur in the physiological range of endogenous circulating corticosteroids. These studies provide strong evidence that sgk is an aldosterone-induced gene in vivo in a mammalian system. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.