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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2012 Feb 28;3:34. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2012.00034. eCollection 2012.

Molecular basis of signaling specificity of insulin and IGF receptors: neglected corners and recent advances.

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University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories and Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Institute of Metabolic Science, Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge, UK.


Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) receptors utilize common phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt and Ras/extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathways to mediate a broad spectrum of "metabolic" and "mitogenic" responses. Specificity of insulin and IGF action in vivo must in part reflect expression of receptors and responsive pathways in different tissues but it is widely assumed that it is also determined by the ligand binding and signaling mechanisms of the receptors. This review focuses on receptor-proximal events in insulin/IGF signaling and examines their contribution to specificity of downstream responses. Insulin and IGF receptors may differ subtly in the efficiency with which they recruit their major substrates (IRS-1 and IRS-2 and Shc) and this could influence effectiveness of signaling to "metabolic" and "mitogenic" responses. Other substrates (Grb2-associated binder, downstream of kinases, SH2Bs, Crk), scaffolds (RACK1, β-arrestins, cytohesins), and pathways (non-receptor tyrosine kinases, phosphoinositide kinases, reactive oxygen species) have been less widely studied. Some of these components appear to be specifically involved in "metabolic" or "mitogenic" signaling but it has not been shown that this reflects receptor-preferential interaction. Very few receptor-specific interactions have been characterized, and their roles in signaling are unclear. Signaling specificity might also be imparted by differences in intracellular trafficking or feedback regulation of receptors, but few studies have directly addressed this possibility. Although published data are not wholly conclusive, no evidence has yet emerged for signaling mechanisms that are specifically engaged by insulin receptors but not IGF receptors or vice versa, and there is only limited evidence for differential activation of signaling mechanisms that are common to both receptors. Cellular context, rather than intrinsic receptor activity, therefore appears to be the major determinant of whether responses to insulin and IGFs are perceived as "metabolic" or "mitogenic."


IGF receptor; adaptor; insulin receptor; kinase; scaffold; signaling; specificity; substrate

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