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J Biol Chem. 2006 Aug 25;281(34):24588-601. Epub 2006 Jun 22.

Nonsecreted insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) can induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells by IGF-independent mechanisms without being concentrated in the nucleus.

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Diabetes Branch, NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), a secreted protein, has the intrinsic ability to induce apoptosis directly without binding insulin-like growth factors. Previous studies suggested that IGFBP-3 must be secreted to exert its biological functions. IGFBP-3 contains a nuclear localization signal (NLS), and exogenous IGFBP-3 is translocated into the nucleus, suggesting that both secretion and nuclear localization may play important roles in IGFBP-3 action. To address these questions, we fused yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) to mature IGFBP-3 lacking its signal peptide so that it would remain intracellular and mutated the C-terminal NLS of IGFBP-3, (228)KGRKR(232), to MDGEA. Following transfection of PC-3 human prostate cancer cells with these constructs, Western blots indicated that YFP-IGFBP-3 lacking a signal peptide was cell-associated and not present in the extracellular media. Moreover, the fusion protein was not N-glycosylated, indicating that it had not entered the secretory pathway. Confocal imaging showed that intracellular YFP-MDGEA-IGFBP-3 was predominantly cytoplasmic. Transient transfection of nonsecreted YFP-wild-type IGFBP-3 decreased cell viability, as assessed by staining with annexin V followed by flow cytometry. Induction of cell death was caspase-dependent, indicative of apoptosis. Apoptosis also was induced by the nonsecreted NLS mutant (YFP-MDGEA-IGFBP-3) alone and when the IGF-binding site also had been mutated. These results indicate that IGFBP-3 can induce apoptosis in an IGF-independent manner without being secreted or concentrated in the nucleus.

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