The distribution and density of functional insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) receptors in cryptorchid and scrotal rat testes and epididymides during gonadal development were studied. Cryptorchidism was induced by unilateral gubernaculectomy in 4-day-old animals, and organs were studied at 15, 30, 60 and 90 days of age. Tissue membranes were assayed for125I-labelled IGF-I binding. Characterization and specificity of binding sites showed that both normal and contralateral undescended testes and epididymides exhibited typical type 1 IGF receptors. In normal testes, IGF-I receptor density was 20.6 nmol g−1 wet mass at day 15, and decreased to 12.8 nmol g−1 wet mass at adult age (day 90). Cryptorchid testes showed IGF-I receptor concentrations similar to normal testes at day 15 and day 30, but in postpubertal stages displayed a divergent pattern, with a continuous increase at day 60 and day 90, reaching a higher density than those found for immature ages (62 nmol g−1 wet mass). Both normal and cryptorchid epididymides had a similar concentration and a comparable decrease in IGF-I receptors throughout development. In studies with immunohistochemical techniques (αIR-3 antibody), IGF-I receptors were found in primary spermatocytes, Sertoli cells and Leydig cells. Cryptorchid tubules showed a lack of germinal epithelium and a marked increase of immunoreactive IGF-I receptors in Sertoli cells, compared with normal tubules from scrotal testes. Intense immunoreactivity for IGF-I receptors was present in the principal cells of epididymal tubules in both normal and cryptorchid organs. These results suggest that tubular damage induced by cryptorchidism in rats is associated with changes in the local regulation of IGF-I receptors.