The presence of a hypothalamic hamartoma and precocious puberty in a 19-month-old boy provided an opportunity to study their relation. Excised tissue had the ultrastructural characteristics of an independent neuroendocrine unit -- i.e., neurons containing neurosecretory granules and blood vessels with fenestrated endothelium and double basement membranes. Immunofluorescence studies using specific antibody to luteinizing-hormone-releasing factor showed antigenicity to the factor in the hamartoma. The testicular-hypothalamic-pituitary axis was tested. Clomiphene unresponsiveness suggested a lack of maturation of central-nervous-system events characteristic of normal puberty. The negative feedback system between gonad and brain was intact but partially resistant to steroid suppression. These studies suggest that hypothalamic hamartomas may cause precocious puberty by autonomous production and release of luteinizing-hormone-releasing factor into vessels that communicate with the pituitary portal blood system.