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The influence of cortisol and prolactin on casein gene expression in the mammary gland of lactating BALB/c mice was measured by using a specific cDNA probe to 15S casein mRNA (cDNAcsn). Casein mRNA (mRNAcsn) level in the mammary gland was decreased by 85% 5 days after adrenal ablation, but then was increased 4.4-fold 12 hr after a single injection of hydrocortisone-21-acetate. An 80% decrease in serum prolactin level, induced by the prolactin inhibitor 2- bromo-α-ergocryptin (CB-154), did not alter the level of mRNAcsn in the gland. Specific transcription of the casein gene in nuclei isolated from lactating mammary glands was measured by cDNAcsn hybridization to the in vitro synthesized Hg-CTP-containing RNA (Hg-RNA), which was purified by SH-agarose chromatography. The level of the mRNAcn in Hg-RNA synthesized in the isolated nuclei was 0.09% and this was decreased 85% by α-amanitin, indicating that the mRNAcsn sequences in the Hg-RNA were the products of RNA polymerase II-directed DNA-dependent RNA synthesis. Transcription of the mRNAcsn in isolated nuclei was decreased by 70% 5 days after adrenalectomy and a single injection of the glucocorticoid then increased the transcription level 2-fold at 6 hr. Essentially no alteration of the level of transcription was detectable in mammary nuclei isolated from lactating mice with 80% decreased serum prolactin level, induced by CB-154 treatment. The results thus demonstrate a glucocorticoid involvement on the modulation of casein gene expression at the transcriptional level of control.