Targeted gene mutations have established distinct, yet overlapping, developmental roles for receptors of the insulin/IGF family. IGF-I receptor mediates IGF-I and IGF-II action on prenatal growth and IGF-I action on postnatal growth. Insulin receptor mediates prenatal growth in response to IGF-II and postnatal metabolism in response to insulin. In rodents, unlike humans, insulin does not participate in embryonic growth until late gestation. The ability of the insulin receptor to act as a bona fide IGF-II-dependent growth promoter is underscored by its rescue of double knockout Igf1r/Igf2r mice. Thus, IGF-II is a true bifunctional ligand that is able to stimulate both insulin and IGF-I receptor signaling, although with different potencies. In contrast, the IGF-II/cation-independent mannose-6-phosphate receptor regulates IGF-II clearance. The growth retardation of mice lacking IGF-I and/or insulin receptors is due to reduced cell number, resulting from decreased proliferation. Evidence from genetically engineered mice does not support the view that insulin and IGF receptors promote cellular differentiation in vivo or that they are required for early embryonic development. The phenotypes of insulin receptor gene mutations in humans and in mice indicate important differences between the developmental roles of insulin and its receptor in the two species.