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Molecular regulation of insulin-like growth factor-I and its principal binding protein, IGFBP-3.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


The insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) have diverse anabolic cellular functions, and structure similar to that of proinsulin. The distribution of IGFs and their receptors in a wide variety of organs and tissues enables the IGFs to exert endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine effects on cell proliferation and differentiation, caloric storage, and skeletal elongation. IGF-I exhibits particular metabolic responsiveness, and circulating IGF-I originates predominantly in the liver. Hepatic IGF-I production is controlled at the level of gene transcription, and transcripts are initiated largely in exon 1. Hepatic IGF-I gene transcription is reduced in conditions of protein malnutrition and diabetes mellitus, and our laboratory has used in vitro transcription to study mechanisms related to diabetes. We find that the presence of sequences downstream from the major transcription initiation sites in exon 1 is necessary for the diabetes-induced decrease in IGF-I transcription. Six nuclear factor binding sites have been identified within the exon 1 downstream region, and footprint sites III and V appear to be necessary for metabolic regulation; region V probes exhibit a decrease in nuclear factor binding with hepatic nuclear extracts from diabetic animals. IGFs in biological fluids are associated with IGF binding proteins, and IGFs circulate as a 150-kDa complex that consists of an IGF, an IGFBP-3, and an acid-labile subunit. Circulating IGFBP-3 originates mainly in hepatic nonparenchymal cells, where IGF-I increases IGFBP-3 mRNA stability, but insulin increases IGFBP-3 gene transcription. Regulation of IGFBP-3 gene transcription by insulin appears to be mediated by an insulin-responsive element, which recognizes insulin-responsive nuclear factors in both gel mobility shift assays and southwestern blots. Studies of mechanisms underlying the modulation of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 gene transcription, and identification of critical nuclear proteins involved, should lead to new understanding of the role and regulation of these important growth factors in diabetes mellitus and other metabolic disorders.

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