The presence of synthetic ovine corticotropin-releasing factor leads to a rapid and marked stimulation of adenosine 3', 5'-monophosphate accumulation in an enriched population of rat pituitary corticotrophs in primary culture. The increase, observed as early as 60 seconds after the addition of corticotropin-releasing factor, suggests that changes in the intracellular concentration of the cyclic nucleotide coincide with or precede the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone in response to corticotropin-releasing factor.