Inhibition of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF–I) signaling is a promising antitumor strategy and nucleic acid-based approaches have been investigated to target genes in the pathway. Here, we sought to modulate IGF-I transcriptional activity using triple helix formation. The IGF-I P1 promoter contains a purine/pyrimidine (R/Y) sequence that is pivotal for transcription as determined by deletion analysis and can be targeted with a triplex-forming oligonucleotide (TFO). We designed modified purine- and pyrimidine-rich TFOs to bind to the R/Y sequence. To monitor TFO binding, we developed a fluorescence-based gel-retardation assay that allowed independent detection of each strand in three-stranded complexes using end-labeling with Alexa 488, cyanine (Cy)3 and Cy5 fluorochromes. We characterized TFOs for their ability to inhibit restriction enzyme activity, compete with DNA-binding proteins and inhibit IGF-I transcription in reporter assays. TFOs containing modified nucleobases, 5-methyl-2′-deoxycytidine and 5-propynyl-2′-deoxyuridine, specifically inhibited restriction enzyme cleavage and formed triplexes on the P1 promoter fragment. In cells, deletion of the R/Y-rich sequence led to 48% transcriptional inhibition of a reporter gene. Transfection with TFOs inhibited reporter gene activity to a similar extent, whereas transcription from a mutant construct with an interrupted R/Y region was unaffected, strongly suggesting the involvement of triplex formation in the inhibitory mechanisms. Our results indicate that nuclease-resistant TFOs will likely inhibit endogenous IGF-I gene function in cells.