We report, in detail, a new form of familial dwarfism, including its phenotypic features, hormonal profile, and molecular basis. Following a newspaper report of severe dwarfism in two villages in the province of Sindh, Pakistan, we organized an expedition to study its clinical, genetic, and molecular characteristics. We identified 18 dwarfs (15 male, 3 female), all members of a consanguineous kindred, ranging in age from newborn to 28 yr. Mean height was 7.2 SD below the norm, with mean adult heights of 130 cm for males and 113.5 cm for females. Body proportions and habitus were normal; but head circumference was 4.1 SD, and blood pressure approximately 3 SD below the norm. There was no dysmorphism, no microphallus, and no history of hypoglycemia. Serum GH did not respond to provocative stimuli (GHRH, L-dopa, or clonidine). Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and IGF-binding protein 3 were low (5.2 +/- 2.0 ng/mL and 0.42 +/- 0.13 microg/mL, respectively; mean +/- SD) but rose normally with GH treatment. One affected, dwarfed couple had a son, demonstrating fertility in both sexes. Clinical and endocrinological evidence suggested isolated GH deficiency with a recessive inheritance pattern. The GH-N gene was found to be intact. Linkage analysis of microsatellite chromosomal markers near other candidate genes yielded a high LOD score (6.26) for the GHRH receptor (GHRH-R) locus. DNA sequencing revealed a nonsense mutation (Glu50-->Stop) in the extracellular domain of the GHRH-R. This mutation predicts a severely truncated GHRH-R; it is identical to that recently reported in four patients from two other families. Inheritance is autosomal recessive (chromosome 7p) with a high degree of penetrance. Relatives heterozygous for the mutation had moderately decreased IGF-I levels and slightly blunted GH responses to GHRH and L-dopa, but they showed only minimal or no height deficit. This syndrome represents the human homologue of the little (lit/lit) mouse and closely resembles its phenotype. It demonstrates the absolute requirement of GHRH signaling for pituitary GH secretion and postnatal growth in humans, and its relatively minor (but discernible) biological importance in extrapituitary sites. The syndrome is distinct from other forms of GH deficiency with respect to microcephaly, asymptomatic hypotension, and absence of features such as facial dysplasia, significant truncal obesity, microphallus, or hypoglycemia. Its discovery raises the possibility of milder mutations in the GHRH-R gene as potential causes for partial GH insufficiency and idiopathic short stature.