We have recently reported that pulsatile GH secretion is elevated 24 h after unilateral nephrectomy (UNX) in adult rats. In addition, suppression of the increase in GH with an antagonist to GH-releasing factor (GRF-AN) significantly attenuated compensatory renal growth (CRG) in adult rats. The present study examined the role of GH in CRG in immature animals. Pulsatile GH release was determined 24 h post-UNX in immature (26-28 days of age) sham-operated and UNX male Wistar rats. In contrast to the adult UNX rats, no increase in GH secretion was seen in the immature UNX rats compared with that in the controls. When pulsatile GH release was suppressed with GRF-AN, there was preferential growth of the remnant kidney despite the attenuated gain in whole body weight. In addition, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and IGF-I receptor mRNA levels were elevated 3-fold in the remnant kidneys of GRF-AN-treated rats, despite the suppression of pulsatile GH release. These findings suggest that the initial phase of CRG is GH independent in the immature rat and, further, that CRG is associated with an increase in IGF-I and IGF-I receptor gene expression that is independent of episodic GH secretion.