GH deprivation after passive immunization against rat GRF (rGRF) markedly affects somatic growth in male rats. Since it has been postulated that GH and probably insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) might have a permissive role on sexual maturation, the effects of GH deprivation on the course of sexual maturation were tested. Male rats were treated with a potent anti-rGRF serum between 15 and 39 days of life (0.25 ml administered sc every second day). Body weight of treated rats averaged 62% of that of control (normal rabbit serum-treated) rats at 40 days of life (d), and 64% at 50 d after which age, treated rats started to grow normally. At 40 and 50 d, pituitary GH content was very much depressed (representing approximately 20% of control values at both ages), plasma GH was undetectable, and plasma IGF-I levels averaged 30% of those of control rats. At 70 d, 30 days after cessation of treatment, pituitary GH content, and IGF-I secretion were almost normal. At 40 d, testes and seminal vesicles of treated rats were small-for-age in agreement with significantly decreased plasma levels of FSH and delayed spermatogenesis characterized by the presence of only few or no spermatozoa. At 50 d, 10 days after cessation of anti-rGRF injections, progress of sexual maturation was found to be consistent with age and coincided with normalization of growth rate. At 40 and 50 d, pituitary contents of FSH and LH were severely decreased but became normal at 70 d. In conclusion, GH deprivation which markedly affected somatic growth induced a transient delay of sexual maturation. GH deficiency seems to have affected mostly the synthesis and secretion of FSH, thus producing a delay in testes growth and in the differentiation of the germinal cells. The low levels of IGF-I might also have been the cause for the delay of maturation at the pituitary and/or the gonadal levels.