Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is essential for cell growth and intrauterine development while both IGF-I and GH are required for postnatal growth. To explore the possibility of direct GH action on body growth, independent of IGF-I production, we have studied the effects of GH in an IGF-I-deficient mouse line created by the Cre/loxP system. The IGF-I null mice are born with 35% growth retardation and show delayed onset of peripubertal growth, grow significantly slower, and do not attain puberty. Their adult body weight was approximately one third and body length about two thirds that of their wild-type litter mates. Injection of recombinant human GH (rhGH, 3 mg/kg, twice daily, sc) between postnatal day 14 (P14) to P56 failed to stimulate their growth as measured as both body weight and length. In contrast, wild-type mice receiving the same doses of rhGH exhibited accelerated growth starting at P21 that continued until P56, when their body weight was increased by 30% and length by 12% compared with control mice treated with diluent. Despite the lack of response in growth, IGF-I null mice have normal levels of GH receptor expression in the liver and increased liver Jun B expression and liver size in response to rhGH treatment. Our results support an essential role for IGF-I in GH-induced postnatal body growth in mice.