This study was planned in order to investigate the role of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) and leptin, the product of the ob gene synthesized by fat tissue cells, in constitutional delay of growth and puberty (CDGP) which is the most frequent cause of short stature in children. This study was conducted on 80 children with CDGP aged 6-15 years, and 60 healthy children served as controls. Serum IGF-I, IGFBP-3, insulin and plasma leptin levels were measured by immuno-radiometric assay. Mean IGF-I and leptin levels were significantly lower in the CDGP group compared with the controls, but the mean IGFBP-3 level was not different in the two groups. Mean leptin levels were 3.72 +/- 2.29 in CDGP and 4.68 +/- 3.08 in the control group (p <0.05). There was a statistically significant relationship between leptin levels and height, weight, and body mass index. Leptin levels were also correlated with chronological age, bone age and height age. When evaluated according to pubertal status, a significant difference was found in IGF-I, leptin and IGFBP-3 levels between prepubertal and pubertal groups. Leptin levels were significantly different in the prepubertal CDGP group compared with controls but in the pubertal CDGP group only IGF-I levels were significantly different from controls. As the weight of children with CDGP was lower than in the control group, it is postulated that the reason for short stature and pubertal delay may be this decrease in weight which is also the cause of low levels of leptin and IGF-I.