This study tested the hypothesis that LH secretion is modulated by insulin and that the responsiveness to hypoinsulinemia is enhanced by sex steroids. The model was the developing male lamb (12-26 wk of age) rendered diabetic by chemically induced necrosis of insulin-secreting tissue (streptozotocin). Our approach was to monitor LH secretion under diabetic conditions, with or without insulin supplementation, either in the presence or in the absence of gonadal steroids. The first experiment determined if chronic insulin supplementation could sustain LH secretion in diabetic lambs. After documentation of the induced diabetic condition, twice-daily treatment with a long-acting insulin preparation (Lente) minimized diabetes-induced hyperglycemia, sustained growth, and maintained LH pulse frequency at levels comparable to pre-diabetic conditions. A second experiment evaluated the acute regulation of LH secretion by insulin. Twenty-four hours of insulin withdrawal decreased LH pulse frequency, increased circulating glucose levels, increased the concentration of plasma non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), and increased urinary output of ketones. LH pulse frequency continued to decline after 96 h of insulin withdrawal. By contrast, 24 h of insulin re-supplementation increased LH pulse frequency, reduced circulating glucose and NEFA concentrations, decreased plasma cortisol, and reduced urinary output of ketones. After 96 h of insulin re-supplementation, LH pulse frequency increased further, to levels comparable with those before insulin withdrawal. A third experiment determined if the effects of insulin withdrawal on LH secretion are influenced by the presence of gonadal steroids. The same individuals were treated with a physiologic dose of estradiol (Silastic capsule, s.c.) and subsequently monitored for changes in LH secretion in the presence and in the absence of exogenous insulin. Prior to insulin withdrawal, estradiol decreased both LH pulse frequency and pulse amplitude. Moreover, after 96 h of insulin withdrawal, estradiol potentiated the decline in LH pulse frequency (47% reduction in LH pulse frequency in the presence of estradiol versus 26% reduction in LH pulse frequency in the absence of estradiol). These findings support the contention that insulin and/or insulin-dependent changes in glucose availability modulate LH(GnRH) pulse frequency, and that such effects are potentiated by, but not dependent upon, gonadal steroids.