There is currently widespread interest in the IGFs (IGF-I and IGF-II) and their roles in the regulation of growth and differentiation of an ever increasing number of tissues are being reported. This selective review focused on the current state of our knowledge about the structure of mammalian IGFs and the multiple forms of mRNAs which arise from alternative splicing and promoter sites which arise from gene transcription. Current progress in the immunological measurement of the IGF is reviewed including different strategies for avoiding binding protein interference. The results of measurements of serum IGF-I and IGF-II in fetus and mother and at various stages of postnatal life are described. Existing knowledge of the concentration of these peptides in body fluids and tissues are considered. Last, an attempt is made to indicate circumstances in which the IGFs are exerting their actions in an autocrine/paracrine mode and when endocrine actions predominate. In the latter context it was concluded that an important role for GH action on skeletal tissues via hepatic production of IGF-I and endocrine action of IGF-I on growth cartilage is likely.