Basal IGF-I levels and the GH response to at least two among provocative stimuli such as clonidine (CLO, Catapresan, 150 mcg/m2 p.o.), GHRH (1 mcg/kg i.v.)+arginine (ARG, 0.5 g/kg i.v. infusion during 30 min) and GHRH+pyridostigmine (PD, Mestinon cpr 60 mg p.o.) have been evaluated in 43 children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS, 17 males and 26 females, age 3-22 yr, 7 normal weight and 36 obese PWS), in 25 normal short children (NC, 17 males and 8 females, 7.7-18.5 yr) and in 24 children with simple obesity (OB, 14 males, 10 females, 7.7-21.5 yr). Both normal weight and obese PWS had mean IGF-I levels lower than those recorded in NC (p<0.001) and OB (p<0.001). The GH responses to GHRH+ARG and GHRH+PD in NC were similar and higher than that to CLO (p<0.001). In PWS the GH response to GHRH+ARG was higher than that to GHRH+PD (p<0.001) which, in turn, was higher than that to CLO (p<0.001); these responses in PWS were lower than those in normal children (p<0.02) and similar to those in OB. In normal weight PWS the GH responses to GHRH+ARG and to GHRH+PD were similar and higher than to CLO (p<0.05); however, each provocative stimulus elicited a GH rise lower than that in NC (p<0.05). In obese PWS as well as in OB the GH response to GHRH+ARG was higher than that to GHRH+PD (p<0.02) which, in turn, was higher than that to CLO (p<0.001); all GH responses in obese PWS and OB were lower than those in NC (p<0.001) but similar to those in normal weight PWS. In conclusion, patients with PWS show clear reduction of IGF-I levels as well as of the somatotroph responsiveness to provocative stimuli independently of body weight excess. These results strengthen the hypothesis that PWS syndrome is frequently connotated by GH insufficiency.