Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) has been implicated as a factor that may predispose one to prostate cancer. However, no specific relationship between IGF-I and prostate development or cancer in vivo has been established. To determine whether IGF-I was important in prostate development, we examined prostate architecture in IGF-I−/− null mice and wild-type littermates. Glands from 44-day-old IGF-I-deficient animals were not only smaller than those from wild-type mice, but also had fewer terminal duct tips and branch points and deficits in tertiary and quaternary branching (P < 0.0001), indicating a specific impairment in gland structure. Administration of des(1-3)-IGF-I for 7 days partially reversed the deficit by increasing those parameters of prostate development (P < 0.006). That IGF-I production probably mediates an effect of GH in this process was indicated by the observations that GH antagonist transgenic mice also had significantly impaired prostate development (P < 0.0002) and that bovine GH had no independent effect on stimulating prostate development in IGF-I null animals. The data indicate that IGF-I deficiency is the proximate cause of impaired prostate development and give credence to the idea that, like testosterone, GH and IGF-I may be involved in prostate cancer growth as an extension of a normal process.