The effect of streptozotocin-induced diabetes on circulating levels of immunoactive LH (I-LH) and bioactive LH (B-LH) was investigated. LH was measured in adult ovariectomized (OVX) rats before and after acute LHRH administration, with or without estradiol benzoate (Eb) treatment (10 micrograms, 48 and 24 h before experiments). I-LH and B-LH were measured in the same samples by RIA and the rat interstitial cell testosterone assay, respectively. OVX diabetic animals showed a significant reduction in both I-LH (63%) and B-LH (73%). Treatment with Eb induced a decrease in basal I-LH and B-LH levels in all experimental groups (50%). These values were normalized after insulin therapy. No alterations in the pituitary responsiveness to LHRH were detected when I-LH levels were determined. However, B-LH levels assayed after LHRH stimulation were significantly decreased in diabetic animals. Insulin treatment was unable to restore this response. The effect of Eb treatment on these parameters was also tested. In these conditions LHRH injections induced similar increases in serum I-LH and B-LH in both diabetic and control rats. These results indicate that, in diabetic OVX rats, basal and LHRH-induced LH has a reduced bioactivity, but this reduction is reversed by Eb treatment. This might indicate that the major defect lies in the ovary rather than at the pituitary level, supporting the notion of an important role of the steroid milieu on the B-LH modulation.