Recent developments in the molecular biology of the insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) receptor have clarified its role in cellular growth and transformation. Although cells homozygous for a targeted disruption of the IGF-I receptor genes can grow in serum-supplemented medium, the IGF-I receptor is required for optimal growth, and is required equally in all phases of the cell cycle. The receptor plays an even more stringent role in cellular transformation and tumorigenicity, which seem to be dependent on its normal expression in several cell types. The expression of both the IGF-I receptor and its ligands is regulated by other growth factors (especially PDGF and EGF), by oncogenes (like SV40 T antigen and c-myb) and by tumour suppressor genes (like WT1 and RB). The picture emerging from these studies is that several transforming agents may exert their growth promoting effects through the direct or indirect activation of the IGF autocrine loop.