Insulin and low doses of luteinizing hormone (LH) activity (human chorionic gonadotropin [hCG]) act synergistically in the rat to produce anovulation, large ovarian cysts, and elevated plasma androstenedione levels. Further, both insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) affect the ability of gonadotropins to enhance both ovarian theca and granulosa cell function in vitro. The present series of experiments were performed to determine if recombinant human IGF-I (rhIGF-I) can act in a manner similar to insulin when combined with subovulatory doses of hCG in adult normally cycling rats. Fifty-four female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to the following treatment groups at the age of 64 days: (A) vehicle alone (controls, phosphate-buffered saline containing 0.09% pig gelatin), (B) twice-daily subcutaneous injections of 0.5 to 3.0 U insulin, (C) twice-daily subcutaneous injections of 1.5 U hCG, (D) both insulin and hCG, (E) twice- daily subcutaneous injections of rhIGF-I (2.5 mg/kg/d), and (F) both hCG and rhIGF-I. After 22 days of treatment, the animals were killed on day 23, trunk blood was collected, and the ovaries were excised for histological study. Eight of 9 control rats and 5 or 6 of 9 rats treated with insulin, hCG, or rhIGF-I alone displayed normal estrus cycles throughout the in vivo treatment period as assessed by daily vaginal smears. In marked contrast, only 1 animal treated with hCG + insulin and 2 animals treated with hCG + rhIGF-I continued to display vaginal smears indicative of normal cycling. Multiple large ovarian follicular cysts were found only in these latter 2 groups (3 of 9 animals in each group). Mean serum testosterone levels were significantly elevated in animals receiving insulin + hCG (0.72 ± 0.28 v 0.17 ± 0.03 ng/mL in controls, P = .05). Mean serum androstenedione levels were significantly elevated in animals receiving hCG and animals receiving rhIGF-I + hCG (5.57 ± 0.99 and 2.39 ± 0.68 ng/mL, respectively, v 0.14 ± 0.14 ng/mL in controls, P < .01 and P < .05, respectively). We conclude that rhIGF-I and insulin act synergistically with subovulatory doses of hCG to disrupt normal reproductive cycling, elevate serum androgen concentrations, and induce large ovarian cysts in intact adult rats. (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.