Newborn rat pups were artificially reared by the pup in cup (PIC) method to determine whether dietary long arginine3. IGF-I (long R3 IGF-I), and IGF-I analog with high receptor affinity and low IGF binding protein (IGFBP) affinity, had efficacy on intestinal growth. IGF effects are mediated by IGFBP and receptor interactions, hence dietary-induced changes in intestinal IGF-II receptor patterns and IGFBP-3 message levels were investigated. Intestinal micrographs of pups fed rat milk replacer (RMR) for 3 d showed flattened villi with low cell counts and appeared similar to newborn intestines. Mother-fed (MF) controls and long R3 IGF-I-fed pups showed increased villi height and cell counts when compared with RMR pups, with long R3 IGF-I fed pups showing the greatest increase. At birth IGF-II-specific binding was not uniform in the intestine; specific binding was higher in the proximal intestinal section than in the distal intestinal section. However, after 3 d of MF treatment, specific binding had reversed and the distal section showed higher IGF-II-specific binding. Three days of RMR feeding did not change IGF-II-specific binding from that of the newborn pup. An IGFBP-3 message was identified in intestinal epithelium by in situ hybridization. Northern analysis of IGFBP-3 message showed a decline over time, but the change was not influenced by dietary treatments. In summary, milk-borne growth factors have the potential to affect intestinal growth within 3 d of treatment.