Based on growing evidence that estradiol is produced in small amounts even in the prepubertal ovary, we hypothesized that estradiol levels in girls with Turner's syndrome (TS) are lower than in normal prepubertal girls secondary to the lack of normally functioning ovaries. Estradiol levels in untreated girls with TS have not been previously well defined because of the lack of adequate sensitivity of previously available estradiol assays. We utilized an ultrasensitive assay to study estradiol levels in 34 girls with TS and 34 normal age-matched prepubertal girls between the ages of 5 and 12 years. The average estradiol level in the girls with TS (6.4 +/- 4.9 pmol/l estradiol equivalents) was significantly lower than in the normal prepubertal girls (12.7 +/- 10.8 pmol/l estradiol equivalents; p < 0.01). Girls with TS were significantly shorter, and weighed less than the normal prepubertal girls, as expected. The estradiol level was not significantly correlated with height, bone age, or degree of bone age delay. In conclusion, girls with TS have significantly lower estradiol levels than normal age-matched prepubertal girls. This report is consistent with the hypothesis that the lack of normal ovarian function in girls with TS is evident even before puberty.