Cross-talk between insulin-like growth factor (IGF)- and estrogen receptor (ER)-signaling pathways results in synergistic growth. We show here that estrogen enhances IGF signaling by inducing expression of three key IGF- regulatory molecules, the type 1 IGF receptor (IGFR1) and its downstream signaling molecules, insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 and IRS-2. Estrogen induction of IGFR1 and IRS expression resulted in enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-1 after IGF-I stimulation, followed by enhanced mitogen-activated protein kinase activation. To examine whether these pathways were similarly activated in vivo, we examined MCF-7 cells grown as xenografts in athymic mice. IRS-1 was expressed at high levels in estrogen-dependent growth of MCF-7 xenografts, but withdrawal of estrogen, which decreased tumor growth, resulted in a dramatic decrease in IRS-1 expression. Finally, we have shown that high IRS-1 expression is an indicator of early disease recurrence in ER-positive human primary breast tumors. Taken together, these data not only reinforce the concept of cross-talk between IGF- and ER-signaling pathways, but indicate that IGF molecules may be critical regulators of estrogen-mediated growth and breast cancer pathogenesis.