The amino acid sequence of the tyrosine kinase domain of the insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) receptor is 84% identical to the sequence of the analogous region of the insulin receptor. A naturally occurring mutation of the tryptophan residue at position 1200 of the insulin receptor to serine results in impaired β subunit autophosphorylation of wheat germ agglutinin- purified receptors, severely impaired thymidine incorporation and moderately reduced glycogen synthesis; however, glucose uptake was unaffected. To study the importance of this residue in IGF-I receptor function, we mutated the analogous tryptophan residue at position 1173 of the IGF-I receptor to serine and overexpressed the mutant receptor in NIH-3T3 cells. In cell lines overexpressing this mutant IGF-I receptor, β subunit autophosphorylation was severely reduced. Additionally, the overexpressed mutant receptors exhibited a dominant-negative effect on IGF-I-stimulated autophosphorylation of endogenous mouse IGF-I receptors. Phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 in intact cells by the mutant IGF-I receptors was similar to the level of IRS-1 phosphorylation seen in the parental NIH-3T3 cells, but there was no obvious dominant-negative effect on IRS-1 phosphorylation. Wheat germ agglutinin-purified mutant receptors were as active in phosphorylating poly-(Glu,Tyr) 4:1 as wild-type IGF-I receptors, suggesting that, in intact cells, additional factors are necessary in order for the IGF-I receptor to phosphorylate IRS-1. Thymidine incorporation was severely reduced in one clone overexpressing the mutant IGF-I receptor and abolished in a second clone. Glucose uptake in both clones was reduced to about half of that seen in a cell line over-expressing wild-type IGF-I receptors. Thus, we propose that the tryptophan residue at position 1173 of the IGF-I receptor is important in the regulation of autophosphorylation in vivo. This study again confirms that high levels of autophosphorylation are not required for mediation of all of the biologic activities of the IGF-I receptor.