To elucidate the role of the testis in the control of LH and FSH secretion before puberty, we examined pulsatile LH and FSH secretion in six prepubertal boys with primary testicular failure (two boys with masculine pseudohermaphroditism, two boys with the Klinefelter's syndrome, and two boys with anorchia) and eight normal prepubertal boys. Plasma LH and FSH levels were measured every 15 min for 6 h during the day and night with ultrasensitive (0.019 and 0.014 IU/L) time-resolved immunofluorometric assays. In all six hypogonadal boys the mean FSH level was above the range of the normal prepubertal boys, whereas the LH level was elevated in only one boy. All boys had LH and FSH pulses. The FSH pulse interval in the anorchid boys was shorter than that in the normal boys, but this was not observed in the other hypogonadal boys. The LH pulse interval in the anorchid and other hypogonadal boys was the same as that in the normal boys. The FSH pulse amplitudes were higher in the anorchid and other hypogonadal boys than in the normal boys, but the LH pulse amplitudes were higher only in the anorchid boys. We conclude that in prepuberty the testes have little effect on LH secretion, but that they are involved in the regulation of FSH levels. In primary testicular failure, the elevation of FSH levels is associated with an increase in FSH pulse amplitude and, in the absence of testicular steroids, possibly also with an increase in FSH pulse frequency.