Four transplantable cell lines (PA-I, II, III, and IV) derived from four Lobund-Wistar (L-W) rats that manifested spontaneous prostate cancer have demonstrated metastatic capacity in visceral organs. Interestingly, PA-III cells, when deposited over the scapula or calvarium of the Lobund-Wistar rat, could produce lytic and blastic reactions on rat skeleton. Since growth factors and growth factor receptors have been implicated in bone remodeling, cancer biology, and metastatic growth of cancer cells, we have examined 1) the effects of insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGF-I and IGF-II) on the proliferation of PA-III cells; and 2) the presence of specific receptors for these peptides. IGF-I (0.5 to 100 ng/ml), IGF-II (0.5 to 100 ng/ml), and insulin (0.5 to 10 micrograms/ml) stimulated tritiated thymidine uptake and increased the number of PA-III cells in culture. Receptor studies demonstrated the presence of specific bindings sites for IGF-I and II but not for insulin. The number and affinity of the receptor sites were: IGF-I (nb = 675 fmol/100 g protein, Kd = 0.56 nmol) and IGF-II (nb = 225 fmol/100 g protein, Kd = 0.71 nmol). Molecular characterization of IGF binding sites by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under denaturing conditions indicated only the presence for the type I IGF receptor. The presence of the IGF-I receptor and the absence of IGF-II and insulin receptors are discussed in relation to the capacity of PA-III cells to produce bone lesions on the L-W rat.