Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1) production is increased by somatostatin and its analogues. In order to determine the time course and identify possible mechanisms of this increase in vivo we administered octreotide to rats and determined IGFBP-1 concentrations by RIA. After 60 min of anaesthesia, the mean baseline IGFBP-1 concentrations were 166 (95% confidence interval 123 to 225) ng/ml and increased in saline-infused animals to 729 (488 to 1086) ng/ml after 180 min. IGFBP-1 was stimulated transiently in response to octreotide, with circulating IGFBP-1 concentrations peaking at 1605 (1220 to 2111) ng/ml at 105 min during a continuous infusion of octreotide (100 micrograms/kg per h). In conscious chronically cannulated rats, baseline IGFBP-1 concentrations were 22 (18 to 28) ng/ml, 8-fold less than in the anaesthetised state, and were stimulated in the short term after administration of an octreotide bolus (100 micrograms/kg s.c.) to reach 88 (62 to 126) ng/ml at 60 min. A similar response was seen after i.v. administration to conscious rats. Intravenous bolus of octreotide (100 micrograms/kg) in rats anaesthetised for 3 h resulted in an increase in IGFBP-1 to peak at 1556 (1268 to 1910) ng/ml at 60 min. The IGFBP-1 response to octreotide was diminished in high-fat fed hyperinsulinaemic rats. The pattern of disappearance of iodinated IGFBP-1 from the circulation was not influenced by octreotide. The changes in GH, insulin and glucose concentrations alone did not sufficiently account for the patterns of response observed. We conclude that, in rats, octreotide stimulates IGFBP-1 acutely and this response is potentiated by factors related to anaesthesia.