The expression of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I, somatomedin C) was studied in regenerating skeletal muscle. Irreversible damage to skeletal muscle cells was induced in the extensor digitorum longus muscle (EDL) of adult rats by ischaemia, preceded by glycogen depletion, and the regeneration process was studied for periods up to 14 days after injury. The IGF-I was demonstrated by indirect immunofluorescence. Immunoreactivity against ribonucleotide reductase (RR) was used as a marker for DNA synthesis, that is, cell proliferation. Increased IGF-I immunoreactivity could be demonstrated within 24 h after injury in satellite cells, intramuscular nerves and in blood vessels. The IGF-I immunoreactivity remained virtually unchanged in the contralateral, undamaged EDL. An increasing number of satellite cells, expressing high IGF-I immunoreactivity, could be demonstrated in the injured EDL, and within 72 h myoblasts, expressing high IGF-I and RR immunoreactivity, were formed. Small immature muscle cells, displaying high IGF-I immunoreactivity, were observed 4 days after injury. Increased IGF-I immunoreactivity was still obvious in the regenerated muscle cells 14 days after injury while RR immunoreactivity was seen only in scattered satellite cells. It is concluded that IGF-I may act as a trophic factor during regeneration of skeletal muscle after injury.