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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42483. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042483. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Novel nuclear localization and potential function of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor/insulin receptor hybrid in corneal epithelial cells.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, United States of America.



Type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-1R) and insulin receptor (INSR) are highly homologous molecules, which can heterodimerize to form an IGF-1R/INSR hybrid (Hybrid-R). The presence and biological significance of the Hybrid-R in human corneal epithelium has not yet been established. In addition, while nuclear localization of IGF-1R was recently reported in cancer cells and human corneal epithelial cells, the function and profile of nuclear IGF-1R is unknown. In this study, we characterized the nuclear localization and function of the Hybrid-R and the role of IGF-1/IGF-1R and Hybrid-R signaling in the human corneal epithelium.


IGF-1-mediated signaling and cell growth were examined in a human telomerized corneal epithelial (hTCEpi) cell line using co-immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting and cell proliferation assays. The presence of Hybrid-R in hTCEpi and primary cultured human corneal epithelial cells was confirmed by immunofluorescence and reciprocal immunoprecipitation of whole cell lysates. We found that IGF-1 stimulated Akt and promoted cell growth through IGF-1R activation, which was independent of the Hybrid-R. The presence of Hybrid-R, but not IGF-1R/IGF-1R, was detected in nuclear extracts. Knockdown of INSR by small interfering RNA resulted in depletion of the INSR/INSR and preferential formation of Hybrid-R. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing assay with anti-IGF-1R or anti-INSR was subsequently performed to identify potential genomic targets responsible for critical homeostatic regulatory pathways.


In contrast to previous reports on nuclear localized IGF-1R, this is the first report identifying the nuclear localization of Hybrid-R in an epithelial cell line. The identification of a nuclear Hybrid-R and novel genomic targets suggests that IGF-1R traffics to the nucleus as an IGF-1R/INSR heterotetrameric complex to regulate corneal epithelial homeostatic pathways. The development of novel therapeutic strategies designed to target the IGF-1/IGF-1R pathway must take into account the modulatory roles IGF-1R/INSR play in the epithelial cell nucleus.

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