Prostate cancer is one of the four most common cancers in the U.S., affecting one of six men. Increased serum levels of androgens and IGF-I are associated with an augmented risk of prostate cancer. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone (T) stimulate prostate cancer cell growth, development, and function, whereas the effects of DHT and T in prostate stromal cells, and of DHEA in prostate cancer or stromal cells, are uncertain. We investigated the actions of DHT, T, DHEA, and E 2 on IGF-I, IGF-II, IGF-IR, IGFBP-2, IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-5 in primary cultures of human prostatic stromal cells by assessing cell proliferation, mRNA expression, and protein secretion by MTT growth assay, quantitative real time PCR, and ELISA, respectively. DHT and T each increased IGF-I (7-fold) and decreased IGFBP-3 (2-fold) mRNA expression and protein secretion in a dose and time dependent manner, and increased IGFBP-2 (2-fold) mRNA in a dose and time dependent manner. DHEA and E 2 did not significantly alter these measures. Flutamide abolished the DHT-modulated increases in IGF-I and IGFBP-2, suggesting that the influences of DHT and T on these measures were androgen receptor mediated. None of the four steroids significantly affected IGF-I receptor, IGF-II or IGFBP-5 mRNA levels or stromal cell proliferation. The effects of DHT on IGF-I, IGFBP-2 and IGFBP-3 were more pronounced in stromal cultures that did not express desmin. These data suggest that DHT and T promote prostate growth partly via modulation of the stromal cell IGF axis, with potential paracrine effects on prostate epithelial cells.