Controversy persists with regard to the atherogenic risk associated with adult growth hormone deficiency (GHD). Endothelial dysfunction and enhanced oxidative stress are early features of atherogenesis. Therefore, we have studied the effect of three months of low dose GH replacement therapy (0.03IU/kg/day) on these parameters in GHD adults. Eight hypopituitary GHD adults (4 male, 4 female), who were receiving conventional hormone replacement therapy, were studied before and after 3 months of GH replacement (0.03IU/kg/day). All observations obtained were compared with similar measurements made in 8 matched control subjects. All study subjects were non-smokers, normotensive and gave no personal or family history of premature vascular disease. Endothelial function was assessed using a specialised vessel wall tracking system to measure endothelium-dependent, flow-mediated, brachial artery dilatation (FMD). Measurements were repeated following glyceryl-trinitrate (GTN) (endothelium-independent dilatation). Oxidative stress was assessed by directly measuring lipid-derived free radicals in venous blood by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. Fasting lipids, insulin, plasma glucose and IGF-I were also measured at baseline and following GH replacement. FMD, expressed as a percentage change from resting base-line diameter, was significantly impaired in the pre-treatment GHD patients compared with controls (3.1+/-2.1% vs 6.1+/-0.9%, P<0. 001; means+/-s.d.) indicating endothelial dysfunction. Significant increase in FMD was noted following GH therapy (3.1+/-2.1% vs 6. 5+/-1.9%, P<0.001). Free radicals (arbitrary units) were elevated in the pre-treatment GHD patients compared with controls (0.36+/-0.09 vs 0.11+/-0.12, P<0.05) and fell significantly following GH therapy (0.23+/-0.03 vs 0.36+/-0.09, P<0.05), although they remained elevated compared with controls. Fasting insulin was significantly higher (25.9+/-18.8 vs 13.9+/-6.7mu/l, P<0.05) and IGF-I concentrations lower (10.8+/-4.7 vs 20.2+/-6.3nmol/l, P<0.05) in the pre-treatment GHD subjects. After treatment there were no changes in insulin concentration, although IGF-I levels were normalised (10. 8+/-2.3 vs 23.6+/-11.4nmol/l, P<0.05). Endothelial dysfunction and enhanced oxidative stress are features of adult GHD. This study suggests plausible mechanisms underlying any proatherogenic tendency in adult GHD and demonstrates improvement of these factors following GH replacement.