Immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, and radioimmunoassay were employed to examine the cellular distribution of mRNAs and proteins for IGF-I, II, IGF-II/M6P receptor, IGFBP2 as well as the levels of IGF-I and II in normal and unilaterally nephrectomized (Nx) adult rat kidneys. A similar distribution of immunoreactive IGF-I, and -II as well as IGF-II/M6P receptor was found in the principal cells of the cortical collecting duct and in all cells of the inner medullary collecting duct. In addition, immunostainable IGF-I and IGF-II/M6P receptor were noted in some inner medullary loops of Henle, while IGFBP2 was seen in the collecting ducts and loops of Henle of the inner medullar and the renal vasculature of all animals. By comparison, in situ hybridization revealed IGF-I mRNA only in the medullary thick ascending limbs while IGF-II mRNA was localized to the wall of the renal microvasculature in all kidneys. IGFBP2 mRNA was localized to the renal corpuscle and to inner medullary interstitial cells of all kidneys. These data suggest that renal IGF-I and IGFBP2 are synthesized at upstream sites along the nephron and then transported downstream for interaction with IGF receptors. Following nephrectomy, the renal levels of IGF-I peptide and mRNA were elevated at both 5 and 33 days post-nephrectomy, supporting a potential functional role for IGF-I in stimulating the structural and functional recovery in compensatory hypertrophy.