Increased load on a muscle (synergistic overload or stretch) results in muscle hypertrophy. The expression of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) mRNA in rat skeletal muscle is increased during synergistic overload-induced hypertrophy. Although it has also been established that fasting animals lose muscle protein, it has been shown that compensatory muscle hypertrophy occurs in adult fasting rats that are undergoing a net loss of body weight. The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether a relationship exists between IGF-I mRNA levels and muscle growth and regression. This was accomplished by examining whether IGF-I mRNA levels were altered during muscle hypertrophy after stretch and regression and the effect of fasting on IGF-I mRNA levels during stretch-induced hypertrophy. Patagialis (PAT) muscle weights increased 13 and 44% at 2 and 11 days of stretch, respectively. However, after removal of the stretch stimulus on day 11, PAT weights began to decrease, reaching control weights by 18 days. During the first time point (2 days), PAT muscle IGF-I mRNA remained constant. IGF-I mRNA abundance was threefold greater than contralateral control levels by 11 days of stretch. IGF-I mRNA levels decreased but remained significantly above control levels throughout the regression of hypertrophy (13, 18, and 25 days). Fasting did not alter PAT muscle response to stretch. After 11 days of stretch, PAT muscle weight increased 60% compared with contralateral control muscles and IGF-I mRNA levels increased three-fold. This study supports a role for IGF-I in muscle hypertrophy but not muscle atrophy.