Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) expression is highly correlated with ovarian follicular growth and granulosa cell proliferation in both pre-pubertal and mature murine ovaries. Igf1 gene deleted mice are infertile, with ovarian follicles arrested at an early stage of development. To elucidate the cause of follicular dysfunction in Igf1 null mice, this study compared granulosa cell proliferation at baseline and in response to exogenous oestradiol (E2) in prepubertal Igf1 null and wild-type (WT) littermate mice. The basal granulosa cell mitotic index was 3.8 ± 0.48 in WT and 1.3 ± 0.7 in Igf1 null mice (P = 0.03). After E2 treatment, WT granulosa mitotic index was 12.7 ± 0.0 vs 5.5 ± 0.8 for Igf1 null mice (P < 0.001). Granulosal BRDU incorporation was also significantly reduced as were cyclin D2 and B1 immunoreactivities in Igf1 null compared with WT mice. The incidence of apoptosis was not increased in Igf1 null follicles, although BAX immunostaining was increased. These data suggest that IGF1 is essential for normal basal and oestrogen-induced granulosa cell proliferation and follicular growth.