The somatomedins or insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are synthesized in many organs and tissues, but the specific cells that synthesize them in vivo have not been defined. By in situ hybridization histochemistry, IGF I (somatomedin C) and IGF II messenger RNAs were localized to connective tissues or cells of mesenchymal origin in 14 organs and tissues from human fetuses. IGF messenger RNAs were localized to perisinusoidal cells of liver, to perichondrium of cartilage, to sclera of eye, and to connective tissue layers, sheaths, septa, and capsules of each organ and tissue. All of the hybridizing regions are comprised predominantly of fibroblasts or other cells of mesenchymal origin. Because these cells are widely distributed and anatomically integrated into tissues and organs, they are ideally located for production of IGFs, which may exert paracrine effects on nearby target cells.