The effects of different doses of thyroxine (T(4)) delivered by injection or s.c. pellet implantation on alterations of the IGF/IGF binding protein (IGFBP) system were studied in neonatal and adult thyroidectomized (Tx) rats. Body weight, blood glucose, plasma insulin, TSH and GH and pituitary GH content, as well as serum IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, -2 and -3 and their liver mRNA expression were assayed. Pellet implantation with the smaller dose of T(4) (1.5 microg/100 g body weight (b.w.) per day) in Tx neonatal rats decreased serum IGF-I, -II and the 30 kDa complex of IGFBPs (IGFBP-1 and -2), and increased serum IGFBP-3. Only the larger dose of T(4) (3 microg/100 g b.w. per day) recovered liver mRNA expression of IGF-I and ensured euthyroid status as shown by the normalized levels of plasma TSH. The rapid increase of body weight and serum GH after T(4) administration indicated a high sensitivity to T(4) during the neonatal period. Serum and liver mRNA expression of IGFs and plasma insulin and GH recovered in adult Tx rats after pellet implantation of 1.75 microg/100 g b.w. per day throughout 10 days. The continuous replacement of T(4) by pellet seems to be the most suitable method for thyroid rehabilitation. A very good correlation was found between insulin and IGF-II in Tx neonates treated with T(4) but not between insulin and IGF-I in Tx adults. IGFBP-2 seems to be up-regulated by T(4) deprivation in neonatal and adult rats. Finally, a good correlation as well as a partial correlation were found between IGFs and thyroid hormones in both neonatal and adult Tx populations, suggesting a direct effect in vivo of T(4) on the hepatic secretion of IGFs, as previously suggested in vitro.