Horm Metab Res 1988; 20: 436-442
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1010854
© Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart · New York

Receptors for Insulin-Like Growth Factors in the Central Nervous System: Structure and Function

S. Gammeltoft1 , R. Ballotti2 , F. C. Nielsen1 , Aline Kowalski2 , E. Van Obberghen2
  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen NV, Denmark
  • 2INSERM U 145, Faculté de Médicine, Université de Nice, Nice, France
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Publication History

Publication Date:
24 April 2008 (online)


Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) I and II are homologous peptides, which stimulate growth of several vertebrate tissues. Expression of IGF I and IGF II genes and production of IGFs have recently been demonstrated in rat and human brain. In search for the function of IGF I and IGF II in the central nervous system, we have studied IGF receptors in fetal and adult mammalian brain and growth effects of IGFs on primary cultures of fetal rat astrocytes. Two types of IGF receptor are present on adult rat brain cortical plasma membranes, on fetal rat astrocytes and on human glioma cells. Type I IGF receptor is composed of 2 types of subunits: α-subunits which bind IGF I and IGF II with high affinity and insulin weakly, and β-subunits which show tyrosine kinase activity and autophosphorylation stimulated by IGF I and IGF II with almost similar potency. The molecular size of the type I IGF receptor α-subunit is larger in cultured fetal rat astrocytes and human glioma cells than in normal adult brain (Mr 130,000 versus 115,000), whereas the β-subunit has the same electrophoretic mobility (Mr 94,000). The type II IGF receptor is a monomeric protein (Mr 250,000), which binds IGF II 5 times better than IGF I, and does not recognize insulin. The amounts of type II IGF receptor are significantly higher in fetal and malignant cells than in adult brain. Based on these findings we suggest that IGF receptors in brain undergo changes during fetal development and malignant transformation. IGFs stimulate growth of cultured fetal rat astrocytes indicating a role of IGF I and IGF II as growth promoters in the central nervous system. It seems possible that the growth effect is mediated by activation of the type I IGF receptor tyrosine kinase, whereas the role of the type II IGF receptor is unclear at present.