Previous studies indicate that fetal rat heart tissue contains large amounts of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-II/mannose 6-phosphate (Man 6-P) receptor messenger RNA, with receptor messenger RNA levels falling by 20 days after birth. We examined the amount of IGF receptor protein in developing rat myocardium. To establish a model in which the role of neural, hormonal, and hemodynamic controls of IGF receptor binding could be studied, we compared binding of IGF-I and IGF-II in normally growing rat atria and ventricles with embryonic day 12 (E-12) atria and ventricles maturing in the anterior eye chamber of an adult host rat. In oculo, embryonic myocardium matures without hemodynamic load or exposure to the fetal hormonal milieu. In fetal rat hearts (E-12 to E-19), both IGF-I and IGF-II intensely bound to a protein with a molecular weight corresponding to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor. Receptors were identified using sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis autoradiography and western blot analysis using Ab3637, a specific polyclonal antibody against rat IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor antigens. This antibody competed for binding of both IGF-I and IGF-II to the band with molecular radius corresponding to 260, 000 (reduced). In normally growing rat atria, IGF-I binding to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor was similar to ventricular tissue; however, there was significantly greater binding of IGF-II than of IGF-I in both atrial and ventricular tissue. High levels of IGF-II binding to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor were observed in both fetal rat atrial and ventricular grafts until 6-8 weeks in oculo. As in normally growing heart tissue, there was similar IGF-I binding to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor in atrial grafts compared with ventricular grafts from 2-8 weeks after implantation. For the first 2 weeks after grafting, the ventricular grafts had relatively higher IGF-I binding to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor compared with later time points examined. The present data indicate that atrial and ventricular binding of IGFs to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor decreases with age, suggesting that decreased IGF binding may be independent of postnatal hemodynamic changes. The decrease is similar in in oculo embryonic rat cardiac grafts and normally growing heart tissue. Collectively, these results indicate that 1) cardiac tissue contains more IGF-II receptors than IGF-I receptors, with IGF-I binding predominantly to the IGF-II/Man 6-P receptor; and 2) IGF-II appears to bind to cardiac tissue with a higher affinity than does IGFI, although it remains undetermined whether the IGF-I and IGF-II binding sites are distinct. © 1994 by The Endocrine Society.