Recombinant chicken (c)IGF-II has been produced in Escherichia coli after first modifying a plasmid that coded for a human (h)IGF-II fusion protein. The cIGF-II fusion protein, deposited in bacterial inclusion bodies, was dissolved under reducing conditions, desalted, subjected to anion-exchange chromatography and refolded. Recombinant cIGF-II was then released from the fusion protein using a genetically engineered serine protease and purified to homogeneity by reverse-phase HPLC. In vitro analysis of recombinant cIGF-II revealed differences between cIGF-II and its human counterpart. Recombinant cIGF-II was less potent than hIGF-II in stimulating protein synthesis in rat myoblasts. This appeared to be due to a decreased affinity for the type-1 IGF receptor. The human and chicken peptides were similar, however, in studies assessing binding to the type-2 IGF receptor and to IGF-binding proteins. Moreover, recombinant cIGF-II and hIGF-II were equipotent in both biological and receptor binding studies in chick embryo fibroblasts, suggesting that there may be a difference between mammalian and avian type-1 IGF receptors.