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Mol Neurobiol. 1989 Spring-Summer;3(1-2):71-100.

Insulin and insulin-like growth factor receptors in the nervous system.

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Section of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, NIDDK, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Insulin and the insulin-like growth factors (I and II) are homologous peptides essential to normal metabolism as well as growth. These peptide hormones are present in the brain, and, based on biosynthetic labeling studies as well as evidence for local gene expression, they are synthesized by nervous tissue as well as being taken up by the brain from the peripheral circulation. Furthermore, the presence of insulin and IGF receptors in the brain, on both neuronal and glial cells, also suggests a role for these peptides in the nervous system. Thus, these ligands affect brain electrical activity, either as neurotransmitters or as neuromodulators, altering the release and re-uptake of other neurotransmitters. The insulin and IGF-I and -II receptors found in the brain exhibit a lower molecular weight than corresponding receptors on peripheral tissues, primarily caused by alterations in glycosylation. Despite these alterations, both brain insulin and IGF-I receptors exhibit tyrosine kinase activity in cell-free systems, as do their peripheral counterparts. Brain insulin and IGF-I receptors are developmentally regulated, with the highest levels appearing in fetal or perinatal life. However, the altered glycosylation of brain receptors does not appear until late in fetal development. The receptors are widely distributed in the brain, but especially enriched in the circumventricular organs, choroid plexus, hypothalamus, cerebellum, and olfactory bulb. These studies on the insulin and IGF receptor in brain, add strong support to the suggestion that insulin and IGFs are important neuroactive substances, regulating growth, development, and metabolism in the brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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