Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are expressed by, and are biologically active on, human fetal cells. The mitogenic actions of IGF-I are modulated by the 21–41 kDa class of IGF-binding proteins (IGF-BPs). Using a rabbit anti-human IGF-BP antibody raised against a highly pure 26 kDa IGF-BP derived from amniotic fluid, we have compared the cellular location of IGF-BP and IGF peptides in tissue sections from prostaglandin-induced human abortuses of 14–16 weeks of gestation. The monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies used were raised against human IGF-I, but did not distinguish between IGF-I and IGF-II. Positive staining for IGF-BP was seen in every tissue except brain, spleen and thyroid. With the exception of skin, the cellular distribution of IGF-BP was similar to that of IGF peptides. Strong immunostaining was found in hepatocytes, hepatic erythropoietic cells, pulmonary epithelium, the tubular epithelium of kidney, intestinal epithelia, the fetal adrenal cortex and cardiac and skeletal muscle fibres. In skin, IGF-BP was located throughout the dermis and in the germinal layer of the epidermis. IGF peptide in skin was restricted to the deeper dermal layers. In the tibial epiphyseal growth plate both IGF-BP and IGF peptide were located in chondrocytes throughout the proliferation and hypertrophic zones. The similarity in distribution of IGF-BP and IGF peptides in fetal tissues suggests that the latter may exist predominantly complexed to IGF-BP in or on the surfaces of cells in vivo. The distribution of IGF-BP may define the sites of biological action of IGF peptides.