Studies in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans have revealed that components of the insulin signaling pathway have been highly conserved during evolution. Genetic analysis in Drosophila suggests that structural conservation also extends to the functional level. Flies carrying mutations that reduce insulin signaling have a growth deficiency phenotype similar to that seen in mice with disruptions of genes encoding insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) or the IGF-I receptor. Recent studies in flies have demonstrated a role for the insulin signaling pathway in the regulation of metabolism, reproduction and lifespan via modulation of central neuroendocrine pathways. Similarly, mice with loss of brain insulin receptors or insulin receptor substrate 2 deficiency exhibit neuroendocrine defects and female infertility. These parallels suggest that the insulin system has multiple conserved roles, acting directly to modulate growth and indirectly, via the neuroendocrine system, to modulate peripheral physiology in response to changes in nutrient availability.