Using an antiserum against synthetic rabbit corticostatin-1 (CS-1), we established a specific RIA for CS-1 and examined its distribution in various tissues, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Among the tissues examined, the highest levels of CS-1-like immunoreactivity (-LI) were found in the lung and spleen. CS-1-LI was also detected at relatively high levels in the pituitary, adrenal medulla, and small intestine, while it was barely detectable in the hypothalamus. Immunocytochemical studies revealed the widespread distribution of CS-1 in these tissues. Plasma CS-1 levels averaged 7.8 ng/ml and increased to 185.4 ng/ml in the presence of infection. CS-1-LI in the adrenal gland, small intestine, and hypothalamus also increased in rabbits with active inflammation. These data suggest that CS-1 may modify the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in an endocrine or paracrine manner in response to infection.