To investigate the role of puberty on spontaneous clinical remission and on secretion of residual C-peptide during the first year of type 1 diabetes mellitus, we studied 77 pre-pubertal, 39 pubertal and 41 post-pubertal type 1 diabetic patients. Spontaneous partial clinical remission (HbA1c within the normal range and insulin dose less than 0.3 U x kg(-1) body weight x day(-1) lasting for at least 10 days) decreased with duration of diabetes: months 3 vs 6 vs 12, respectively 13 vs 7 vs 4% (P<0.025). Remission was higher in post-pubertal than pubertal and prepubertal patients: month 6 respectively 20 vs 5 vs 1% (P<0.001). Secretion of C-peptide was significantly lower in pre-pubertal than the other two groups of patients. Basal and stimulated C-peptide secretion were higher in patients in clinical remission than in those who were not: basal value 0.4 (0.26-0.53) vs 0.28 (0.14-0.4) nmol/l (P<0.05); stimulated value 0.63 (0.5-0.95) vs 0.56 (0.31-0.74) nmol/l (P<0.05). Spontaneous remission is less frequent in children and adolescent patients than in adult post-pubertal patients, but different mechanisms may be involved. Low residual insulin secretion seems implicated in children meanwhile low insulin sensitivity could be more important in pubertal patients.