The structures of the altered alpha-melanotropin (alpha MSH or alpha-N-acetyl-ACTH(1-13)NH2)-related molecules produced by cultured rat intermediate pituitary cells were investigated. Peptide analyses demonstrated that the alpha MSH-related molecules produced by acutely prepared intermediate pituitary cells were primarily des-, mono-, and diacetylated ACTH(1-13)NH2; in contrast, longer term cultures produced primarily des-, mono-, and diacetylated ACTH(1-14)OH. No significant amount of labeled ACTH(1-13)OH-related material was observed under any incubation conditions. Intermediate pituitary cells in culture stopped producing alpha-amidated alpha MSH-related molecules with a half-time of approximately 15 to 18 h; instead, ACTH(1-14)OH-related molecules were synthesized. In several pulse-chase experiments, performed under conditions where cultured intermediate pituitary cells were capable of synthesizing alpha MSH-related molecules terminating in -Val13-NH2, labeled molecules ending in -Val13-Gly14-OH were not found to give rise to major amounts of labeled molecules ending in -Val13-NH2. This failure to observe conversion of glycine-extended molecules into alpha-amidated products was not due to selective secretion from the cells, since the acetylation and amidation states of labeled molecules that were secreted under basal conditions reflected those of the molecules stored in the cells, and the basal rate of secretion was very low.