In the past three decades, overwhelming evidence has accumulated to show that insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and -II, their receptors and binding proteins (IGFBP) (the IGF system), have major roles to play in the regulation of ovarian function in mammals. Although studies in birds did not start until 5-6 years ago, the limited information thus far available suggests that the IGFs act as autocrine/paracrine regulators of follicular growth and differentiation, just as observed in mammals. The genes for IGF-I and -II, type-I IGF receptor, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-5 are expressed in both granulosa and theca cells of the chicken ovary. The mechanisms by which the IGF system controls ovarian function in the avian species are complex and involve interactions with the gonadotrophins (LH and FSH), growth hormone, and even other growth factors. Effects are different between strains and nutritional status. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.