The IGF/IGF-1R system, which includes the IGF, IGF-1R, and IGFBPs proteins, plays an important role in the development and growth of colorectal cancer. We previously reported that in the HT29 human colon cancer cell line EGCG, the major biologically active component of green tea, inhibits activation of the RTKs EGFR, HER2, and HER3, and that this is associated with inhibition of multiple downstream signaling pathways. Since IGF-1R is also a RTK, in this study we examined the effects of EGCG on the activity of IGF/IGF-1R system in human colon cancer cells. We found that the colon cancer cell lines Caco2, HT29, SW837, and SW480 express high levels of the IGF-1R receptor, and that both SW837 and SW480 cells display constitutive activation of this receptor. Treatment of SW837 cells with 20 microg/ml of EGCG (the IC50 concentration for growth inhibition) caused within 6 h a decrease in the phosphorylated (i.e., activated) form of the IGF-1R protein. At 12 h, there was a decrease in the levels of both IGF-1 protein and mRNA and within 3-6 h there was an increase in the levels of both IGFBP-3 protein and mRNA. The increased expression of the latter protein was sustained for at least 48 h. When SW837 cells were treated with EGCG for a longer time, i.e., 96 h, a very low concentration (1.0 microg/ml) of EGCG also caused inhibition of activation of IGF-1R, a decrease in the IGF-1 protein, and an increase in the IGFBP-3 protein. EGCG also caused a decrease in the levels of mRNAs that encode MMPs-7 and -9, proteins that proteolyze IGFBP-3. In addition, treatment with EGCG caused a transient increase in the expression of TGF-beta2, an inducer of IGFBP-3 expression. These findings expand the roles of EGCG as an inhibitor of critical RTKs involved in cell proliferation, providing further evidence that EGCG and related compounds may be useful in the chemoprevention or treatment of colorectal cancer.