Although a full understanding of insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) action is evolving, the discovery of insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins and their role to link cell surface receptors to the intracellular signaling cascades provided an important step forward. Moreover, Insulin/IGF receptors use common signaling pathways to accomplish many tasks, the IRS proteins add a unique layer of specificity and control. Importantly, the IRS-2 branch of the insulin/IGF-signaling pathway is a common element in peripheral insulin response and pancreatic beta-cell growth and function. Failure of IRS-2 signaling might explain the eventual loss of compensatory hyperinsulinemia during prolonged periods of peripheral insulin resistance. Moreover, short-term inhibition of IRS protein functions by serine phosphorylation, or sustained inhibition by ubiquitin-targeted proteosome-mediated degradation suggests a common molecular mechanism for insulin resistance during acute injury or infection, or the sensitivity of beta-cells to autoimmune destruction. The broad role of IRS-1 and IRS-2 in cell growth and survival reveals a common regulatory pathway linking development, somatic growth, fertility, neuronal proliferation, and aging to the core mechanisms used by vertebrates for nutrient sensing.