The goal of this study was to find out whether GH or insulin regulate the mRNA expression of the fetal binding protein of insulin-like growth factor (IGFBP-2). Primary hepatocytes from adult rats were used as a test system. IGFBP-2 mRNA was abundant in cells cultured in the absence of hormones and markedly reduced in cultures containing insulin. Addition of GH had no effect on IGFBP-2 mRNA levels although the cells are responsive to GH as demonstrated by a GH mediated elevation of IGF l mRNA levels. Half-maximal down-regulation of IGFBP-2 mRNA levels occurred at an insulin concentration of 1 to 2 x 10(-10) M. The finding that insulin is a potent negative regulator of hepatic IGFBP-2 mRNA levels suggests a physiologically important regulatory link between the two hormones insulin and IGF l.