An immunologically anomalous LH with two point mutations in its beta-subunit gene (Trp8Arg and Ile15Thr) has recently been described. This polymorphism is common in Finland; 28% of the population are homo- or heterozygous for the variant allele. To assess the effect of the LH variant on LH action, we correlated its presence in a group of 49 healthy boys with the onset and progression of puberty. This group was followed-up longitudinally from a mean age of 11.7 +/- 0.1 yr for 3 yr at 3-month intervals. In addition, we studied the prevalence of the variant LH in boys with constitutional pubertal delay (testicular volume < or = 4 mL after 13.5 yr of age). The LH beta gene status of each subject in this study was judged from a single venous blood sample using two immunofluorometric LH assays with different combinations of monoclonal antibodies: one detecting both the variant and wild-type LH, and the other detecting only wild-type hormone. Of the boys with pubertal onset at a normal age, 36 (74%) were homozygous for the wild-type LH beta allele, 12 (24%) were heterozygous, and 1 (2%) was homozygous for the variant LH beta allele. Clear differences in pubertal parameters were found between the boys with normal and mutated (homo- or heterozygous) LH genotypes. During the follow-up, the boys with the mutated genotype had smaller testicular volumes (P < 0.03), were shorter (P < 0.02), had slower growth rates (P < 0.04), and had lower serum insulin-like growth factor I-binding protein-3 levels (P < 0.03) than the boys with the normal LH genotype. In the boys with delayed onset of puberty, the frequency of the variant LH beta allele did not differ from that in the reference population, indicating that the variant LH is not associated with conditions due to disturbed control of the reactivation of GnRH secretion. We conclude that during the progression of puberty, the variant LH may be less active in stimulating testicular growth than wild-type LH. Thus, the gene may affect tempo, contributing to the wide normal variation in pubertal progression in healthy boys. Our results also suggest that the variant LH not only affects the course of puberty, but is already involved in the regulation of the GH-insulin-like growth factor I axis during childhood.