The aims of this study were: (i) to investigate the cellular immunoexpression of androgen receptor and oestrogen receptor beta in the testes of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) during neonatal life compared with their expression at later ages; (ii) to establish whether neonatal marmoset Sertoli cells are targets for androgens or oestrogens or both; and (iii) to investigate the relationship between neonatal plasma testosterone concentrations and androgen receptor immunoexpression by abolishing the neonatal testosterone surge with a potent GnRH antagonist. Androgen receptor and oestrogen receptor beta immunoexpression were evaluated in neonatal animals aged 1-4 days, 4 weeks and 6 weeks, and compared with immunoexpression in animals aged 18-22 weeks (early infancy), 35 weeks (late infancy), 58-62 weeks (late pubertal) and > 100 weeks (adult). Immunoexpression of androgen receptor in the reproductive tract was also evaluated at each age. Sertoli cell immunoexpression of androgen receptor was weak or absent in neonatal animals, but increased substantially in infant animals, reaching adult levels by the end of infancy. In contrast, immunoexpression of androgen receptor during the neonatal period was strong in testicular interstitial cells and very strong in epithelial cell nuclei throughout the reproductive tract, and did not change greatly with age in these cells or tissues. Similarly, immunoexpression of oestrogen receptor beta was prominent in many Sertoli cells and in the germ cells of neonatal animals, and was relatively constant throughout life. Weak immunoexpression of androgen receptor in neonatal Sertoli cells was associated with high plasma testosterone concentrations (2.7-5.5 ng ml(-1)), whereas strong Sertoli cell immunoexpression was associated with baseline (approximately 0.12 ng ml(-1)) testosterone concentrations in infant animals and with > 10 ng ml(-1) in late pubertal and adult animals. Immunoexpression of androgen receptor and oestrogen receptor beta was also evaluated in co-twin males aged 4 and 35 weeks, after treatment from birth to 4 weeks or from week 25 to week 35, respectively, with either vehicle or with GnRH antagonist at a dose known to suppress the neonatal testosterone surge completely. Only GnRH antagonist treatment during weeks 25-35 reduced androgen receptor immunoexpression, whereas immunoexpression of oestrogen receptor beta was unaffected by treatment during either period. On the basis of these findings it is suggested that: (i) neonatal marmoset Sertoli cells may be targets primarily for oestrogens rather than androgens; (ii) androgen receptor expression in the testes of neonatal and infant marmosets is not regulated in a straightforward way by testosterone; and (iii) high neonatal concentrations of plasma testosterone are not absolutely necessary for expression of androgen receptor in marmoset testes at this time.