Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) and their binding proteins (IGFBPs) have important regulatory functions in ovarian follicular development. Although most studies have investigated the IGF system in ovarian cells in vitro, investigation of the IGF system in the peripheral circulation and in follicles of varying sizes throughout the menstrual cycle in large numbers of subjects has been lacking. In the current study we performed daily IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 measurements in 9 healthy regularly cycling volunteers throughout the menstrual cycle. In addition, we investigated IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 levels in 13 samples of androgen-dominant follicular fluid [FFa androstenedione to estradiol (AD:E2) ratio, > 4] and 19 samples of estrogen-dominant follicular fluid (FFe; AD:E2 ratio, 4) obtained from 21 regularly cycling subjects and in 18 samples of fluid from luteinizing follicles obtained from patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment (FFivf). IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 were measured using two-site immunoradiometric assays. No significant day to day differences were observed in IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 levels across the menstrual cycle. Median IGF-II levels in FFe (630 ng/mL; range, 212-1000) were significantly higher compared to those in FFa (474 ng/mL; range, 272-603; P = 0.002). Median IGFBP-3 levels in FFe (2955 ng/mL; range, 388-3448) were also significantly higher than those in FFa (2352 ng/mL; range, 756-2604; P = 0.003). Median IGF-I (192 ng/mL; range, 29-256) and IGFBP-1 (12 ng/mL; range, 2-281) levels in FFe were not significantly different from those in FFa [149 (range, 22-232) and 21 (range, 5-32) ng/mL, respectively). In contrast, significantly lower IGFBP-1 levels were found in FFe compared to FFivf (79 ng/mL; range, 57-234; P = 0.002), whereas there was no significant difference between FFe and FFivfe IGF-I, IGF-II, or IGFBP-3 levels, respectively. IGF-II levels were correlated with follicle diameter (r = 0.52; P = 0.002), cycle day (r = 0.47; P = 0.0065), E2 levels (r = 0.53; P = 0.003), AD:E2 ratio (r = -0.58; P = 0.001), and P concentrations (r = 0.60; P = 0.001) in all follicles, whereas no such correlations were found with IGF-I. In conclusion, as circulating levels of IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 are not menstrual cycle dependent, it is unlikely that these growth factors and these binding proteins play an endocrine role in cyclic ovarian follicle development, although both cycle-dependent delivery to the ovary and modification of their actions locally within the ovary cannot be excluded. With regard to FF1 the findings that IGF-II levels in FF1 are elevated compared to those in FFa and correlate with follicular functional status support a role for IGF-II during development of the dominant follicle. In addition, as IGFBP-3 in estrogen-dominant follicles mirrors the rise of IGF-II, this IGFBP may be a primary regulator of IGF-II action within the estrogen-dominant follicle. Finally, the finding of elevated levels of IGFBP-1 in luteinizing (IVF) follicles suggests an important role for this peptide in corpus luteum regulation.