Obese patients are characterised by several neuroendocrine abnormalities, including characteristically a decrease in growth hormone responsiveness to GH-releasing hormone. In normal subjects, the GH response to GHRH is enhanced by the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine. We have studied the effect of this drug on GH secretion in gross obesity. Twelve obese patients were studied (mean weight 156% of ideal) and compared with a group of 8 normal volunteers. Each subject was initially studied on two occasions, in random order, with GHRH (1–29) NH2 100 μg iv alone and following pretreatment with pyridostigmine 120 mg orally one hour prior to GHRH. In obese patients, the GH response to GHRH was significantly blunted when compared to controls (GH peak: 20 ± 4 vs 44 ± 16 μg/l; mean ± sem). After pyridostigmine, the response to GHRH was enhanced in the obese subjects, but remained significantly reduced compared to non-obese subjects treated with GHRH and pyridostigmine (GH peak: 30 ± 5 vs 77 ± 20 μg/l, respectively). In 6 subjects, higher doses of GHRH or pyridostigmine did not further increase GH responsiveness in obese patients. Our results suggest that obese patients have a disturbed cholinergic control of GH release, probably resulting from increased somatostatinergic tone. This disturbed regulation may be responsible, at least in part, for the blunted GH responses to provocative stimuli.