The spatial localization of IGF-II protein and mRNA was investigated during larval and postlarval developmental stages of the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, using specific antisera and riboprobes. Steady-state levels of IGF-II mRNA in larvae were determined by Northern blot analysis and were found to be increased. Immunoreactivity towards IGF-II was found in larval skin, muscle, gills, gut, olfactory epithelium and kidney. After metamorphosis, the strongest immunoreactivity was found in red skeletal muscle. Positive reaction with IGF-II antibodies was also found in the olfactory epithelium and in the epithelia of pharynx, oesophagus, stomach and kidney. In the adult, the most intense signal was observed in the red and pink musculature and in heart musculature. Immunostaining was also found in saccus vasculosus, thymus, spleen and ovary. IGF-II mRNA was detected by in situ hybridization in the brain, olfactory epithelium, eye, pharynx, skeletal musculature and liver. The spatial distribution of IGF-II shown in this study is consistent with previous findings on the cellular localization of IGF type 1 receptor in the sea bream and supports a role for IGF-II during development and growth of sea bream. Furthermore, these results suggest that IGF-II acts in an autocrine/paracrine manner.