Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-II play a number of important roles in growth and differentiation, and IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs) modulate IGF biological activity. IGF-I has been shown previously to be essential for normal uterine development. Therefore, we used in situ hybridization assays to characterize the unique tissue- and developmental stage-specific pattern of expression for each IGF and IGFBP gene in the rat uterus during perinatal development (gestational day [GD]-20 to postnatal day [PND]-24). IGF-I and IGFBP-1 mRNAs were expressed in all uterine tissues throughout this period. IGFBP-3 mRNA was not detectable at GD-20 but became detectable beginning at PND-5, and the signal intensity appeared to increase during stromal and muscle development. IGFBP-4 mRNA was abundant throughout perinatal development in the myometrium and in the stroma, particularly near the luminal epithelium. IGFBP-5 mRNA was abundantly expressed in myometrium throughout perinatal development. IGFBP-6 mRNA was detected throughout perinatal development in both the stroma and myometrium in a diffuse expression pattern. IGF-II and IGFBP-2 mRNAs were not detected in perinatal uteri. Our results suggest that coordinated temporal and spatial expression of IGF-I and its binding proteins (IGFBP-1,-3,-4,-5, and -6) could play important roles in perinatal rodent uterine development.