Hypothyroidism was induced in young female Sprague-Dawley rats by the addition of methimazole (50 mg/kg BW-day) to drinking water for a period of 7 weeks (7-14 weeks of age). Replacement therapies of 0.7 U/kg BW human GH (hGH), 15 μg/kg BW L-T4 (T4), and a combination of hGH and T4 at the same doses were introduced during the last 2 weeks of the experiment. The responses of the cartilage and subchondral spongiosa of mandibular condyles were assessed by morphological and morphometric parameters. In addition, immunohistochemical localization of the GH receptor and insulin-like growth factor-I was determined by the streptavidin-biotin-peroxidase technique. In the hypothyroid rats, the trabecular bone volume of the subchondral spongiosa increased by 49%, indicating osteopetrosis. Along the ossification front, bone trabeculae occupied 18% and vascular elements 82% in mandibular condyles of control rats, whereas in hypothyroid rats, the percentage occupied by bone trabeculae increased to 89%. The cellularity of the cartilage in hypothyroid condyles was markedly reduced and was fully restored by T4, but not by GH replacement. Immunohistochemistry revealed the presence of GH receptors throughout the condyle regardless of the thyroid state of the animal. On the other hand, insulin-like growth factor-I immunohistochemical localization revealed the peptide to be present at all maturational stages of the cells in condyles from control and T4-treated rats, but to be lacking in young chondrocytes of hypothyroid and hGH-treated rats. This result demonstrates that the hypothyroid cartilage is compromised in its response to hGH.