Assays for insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and IGF-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) have become essential tools in the diagnostic work-up of disorders of the somatotropic axis in children and adults. The aim of this study was to evaluate the automated IMMULITE IGF-I and IGFBP-3 assays and to establish reference limits--central 95% intervals, median, 0.1 and other centiles as clinically relevant--as a function of age from 797 females and 787 males, from the first week of life through the ninth decade. Pubertal children were classified by sex and by sexual maturation (Tanner stage). IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels were also assayed in 20 pediatric patients each with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) and Turner syndrome (UTS), before and during 12 months of recombinant growth hormone (rhGH) therapy, as well as in 11 adult patients with GHD and seven with acromegaly before therapy. Both the IGF-I and IGFBP-3 assays were accurate, specific and sufficiently sensitive to measure IGF-I and IGFBP-3 in serum with good linearity and recovery. In the IGF-I assay, potential interference from IGFBPs was eliminated by blocking with excess IGF-II. Circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 concentrations, and their ratio IGF-I/IGFBP-3, were age-dependent, showing low levels immediately after birth, a typical pubertal peak for girls and boys, and a pronounced decline after puberty, reaching a plateau in early adulthood. In adults IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels decreased smoothly but steadily with age. Children with GHD and UTS had low circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels which increased to normal reference limits under therapy with rhGH. Adult GHD patients showed IGF-I levels below the age-related median; untreated acromegalic patients mostly had IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels above the age-related 97.5th centile. In conclusion, the automated IMMULITE IGF-I and IGFBP-3 assays are reliable tools in the diagnosis of pathologies of the GH/IGF axis and in the follow-up of their therapies.