We examined whether there is a relationship between body fat mass or body fat distribution and hormonal profiles in the plasma of early pubertal girls. Thirty-five apparently healthy caucasian schoolgirls were selected for Tanner's breast development stage M2; they had all been classified as being stage M1 6 months earlier. Body fat mass had no relationship with the total plasma sex steroid concentration or gonadotropins. However, body fat mass was correlated with the fraction of testosterone that was not bound to sex hormone-binding globulin and considered the fraction available for biological activity. Body fat distribution, rather than body fat mass, was different in relation to the total concentrations of estrone, estradiol (E2), and testosterone as well as the percentage of available E2 or testosterone. Girls with fat localized predominantly on the hips had the highest levels of sex steroids and gonadotropins. It seems likely that this type of fat distribution is a result of ovarian activity. Girls with predominantly abdominal fat were also more obese and showed increased plasma levels of total E2 and a lower androgen/estrogen ratio in plasma, possibly due to increased aromatization, especially in abdominal adipose tissue. The findings suggest a reciprocal relationship among body fat distribution, plasma sex hormone levels, and availability of sex steroids in early female puberty.