Although a profound depression in immune function occurs following injury, the mechanism responsible for this is not fully understood. Furthermore, steroid hormones are known to be important mediators in the regulation of immune function. Although dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the most plentiful steroid hormone, has been shown to stimulate immune function in normal animals, it is unknown whether DHEA has any salutary or detrimental effects on immune responses after trauma and haemorrhage. To study this, male mice were subjected to trauma, haemorrhage and resuscitation, following which they received either DHEA or vehicle subcutaneously. DHEA administration restored the normally depressed splenocyte proliferation as well as interleukin 2, interleukin 3, and interferon gamma elaboration following trauma and haemorrhage. In an attempt to determine the mechanisms mediating this effect, T cells were stimulated in vitro in the presence of DHEA and a variety of hormone antagonists. The stimulatory effect of DHEA on splenocyte proliferation was unaltered by the testosterone receptor antagonist flutamide, while the oestrogen antagonist tamoxifen completely abrogated its effect. In addition, DHEA administration normalized the elevated serum corticosterone level typically seen following injury. These results indicate, therefore, that DHEA improves splenocgte function after trauma and haemorrhage by directly stimulating T cells and also by preventing a rise in serum corticosterone.