Insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II) is a widely expressed 7·5 kDa mitogenic peptide hormone. Although it is abundant in serum, understanding of its physiological role is limited compared with that of IGF-I. IGF-II regulates foetal development and differentiation, but its role in adults is less well understood. Evidence suggests roles in a number of tissues including skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, bone and ovary. Altered IGF-II expression has been observed in metabolic conditions, notably obesity, diabetes and the polycystic ovary syndrome. This article summarizes what is known about the actions of IGF-II and its dysregulation in metabolic and endocrine diseases. The possible causes and consequences of dysregulation are discussed along with the implications for diagnostic tests and future research.