The kinetics of peritoneal transport of insulinlike growth factor (IGF) system-related proteins during dialysis is not well characterized. We studied temporal changes in dialysate and serum concentrations of ICE-I and IGF-II as well as IGF binding protein (BP)-1, -2, and -3 in ten children with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) undergoing continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) during a 4-h peritoneal equilibration test (PET). Dialysate concentrations of IGF-I, IGF-II, and all three IGFBPs demonstrated a time-dependent increase during PET. Despite their transport, the serum concentrations of these proteins did not change significantly during the PET. Dialysate/serum ratios for IGF-I, IGF-II, and IGFBP-1, -2, and -3 were significantly increased at 2 h and increased further at 4 h, at which time values averaged 1.3+/-0.2%, 3.1+/-0.5%, 6.2+/-1.0%, 2.4+/-0.2%, and 1.3+/-0.2% of serum levels, respectively. The transperitoneal clearance (mu l/min per 1.73 m(2)) of the three IGFBPs was inversely related to both their molecular weight and plasma concentration. However, peritoneal clearance of IGF-I and -II was similar to that of the larger and more-abundant IGFBP-3. Mass transfer rates (mu g/h per 1.73 m2) for the IGFs and their binding proteins were directly proportional to their prevailing plasma concentration. Based on estimates of mass transfer, only a small molar excess of IGFBPs was removed from the circulation relative to the combined molar concentration of IGF-I and ICE-II. Hence, it seems unlikely that any beneficial effect of CCPD on growth in children with ESRD is mediated via a preferential loss of IGFBPs into the dialysate fluid.