Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding to the type 1 IGF receptor (IGF1R) elicits mitogenic effects, promotion of differentiation and protection from apoptosis. This study has systematically measured IGF1R binding affinities of IGF-I, IGF-II and 14 IGF analogues to a recombinant high-affinity form of the IGF1R using BIAcore technology. The analogues assessed could be divided into two groups: (a) those designed to investigate binding of IGF-binding protein, which exhibited IGF1R-binding affinities similar to those of IGF-I or IGF-II; (b) those generated to probe IGF1R interactions with greatly reduced IGF1R-binding affinities. The relative binding affinities of IGF-I analogues and IGF-I for the IGF1R determined by BIAcore analysis agreed closely with existing data from receptor-binding assays using cells or tissue membranes, demonstrating that BIAcore technology is a powerful tool for measuring affinities of IGFs for IGF1R. In parallel studies, IGF1R-binding affinities were related to ability to protect against serum withdrawal-induced apoptosis in three different assays including Hoechst 33258 staining, cell survival, and DNA fragmentation assays using the rat pheochromocytoma cell line, PC12. In this model system, IGF-I and IGF-II at low nanomolar concentrations are able to prevent apoptosis completely. We conclude that ability to protect against apoptosis is directly related to ability to bind the IGF1R.