The hypothalamo-pituitary-insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) axis was studied in 24 prepubertal children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and 12 non-diabetic children. There were no significant differences between the diabetic and control subjects in basal concentrations of immunoreactive growth hormone releasing hormone (ir-GHRH), growth hormone (GH) or stimulated GH levels, but after exercise ir-GHRH concentrations were higher in the diabetic children. Peripheral IGF-I levels were significantly lower in the diabetic children, and even lower in those with poor metabolic control. A positive correlation was found between IGF-I levels and circulating free insulin concentrations in the diabetic subjects (r = 0.49, p < 0.05). These observations suggest that the GH response to physiological stimulation is normal in prepubertal diabetic children. Exercise-induced GH response may not be mediated by GHRH. IGF-I levels were reduced in prepubertal children with IDDM and even more so in subjects with poor metabolic control. This may be a consequence of transitory hypoinsulineamia, emphasizing the importance of adequate insulinization to facilitate optimal growth in children and adolescents with IDDM.