The IGFs are important mitogens involved in lung growth and development. The regulation of IGF action depends not only on the expression of IGFs and IGF receptors, but also on the modulation of IGF activity by IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs). In this study, we describe the mRNA expression of IGF-I, IGF-II, type I IGF receptor, IGFBP-2, IGFBP-4 and IGFBP-5 during mouse lung development as studied by in situ hybridization techniques. The IGF, type I IGF receptor and IGFBP-2, -4 and -5 genes were expressed in developing lung as early as embryonal day 12·5. Expression of IGFBPs-1, -3 and -6 was below detection. IGF and IGFBP-2 mRNAs were expressed both in mesenchymal and epithelial cells. Type I IGF receptor transcripts were also observed throughout the developing lung, with the exception of the epithelial cells of the bronchi after embryonal day 15. Furthermore, mRNA expression of IGFBPs-4 and -5 was noted in neighbouring cell types, and after embryonal day 15, co-expression of the type I IGF receptor and IGFBP-4 transcripts was detected. The observed expression patterns imply that the IGFBP-2, -4 and -5 genes are differentially regulated during embryonic development and suggest that each may have a discrete function. A possible role for IGFBPs-2, -4 and -5 is to participate in the regulation of cell-specific IGF responses during mouse lung development.