We describe a case of non-islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH) associated with a renal cell carcinoma. Serum insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) (including IGF-II E peptide), IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs), insulin and C-peptide were measured before and after surgical removal of the tumour. IGFBPs were visualized by Western ligand blotting. Preoperatively 'big' IGF-II and IGFBP-2 levels were raised. IGF-I, IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-3 were low, while insulin, C-peptide and GH were undetectable. These changes were reversed by 2 days postoperatively. Protease assays showed little IGFBP-3 protease activity preoperatively. Preoperatively, neutral chromatography demonstrated most of the immunoassayable IGFBP-3 in a high molecular weight form with a small amount of IGF-II. Most of the IGF-II and big IGF-II eluted in lower molecular weight forms. Postoperative samples showed a shift in IGF-II which became increasingly associated with IGFBP-3 in both low and high molecular weight complexes. By Northern blotting, expression of all species of IGF-II mRNA in the tumour was 10-fold greater than in normal human liver. The tumour did not express IGFBP-1 or IGFBP-2. IGFBP-3 was expressed in small amounts, while the expression of IGFBP-4 was two-fold higher than in liver. In conclusion, we have confirmed high levels of big IGF-II and IGFBP-2 in NICTH, changes which are reversed postoperatively. The IGF-II is derived from the tumour which overexpresses these genes but IGFBP-2 probably arises from extratumour upregulation.