Insulin-like growth factor binding proteins: new proteins, new functions

Horm Res. 1999;51(2):53-67. doi: 10.1159/000023315.


The insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs), and IGFBP proteases regulate somatic growth and cellular proliferation both in vivo and in vitro. IGFs are potent mitogens whose actions are determined by the availability of free IGFs to interact with IGF receptors. IGFBPs comprise a family of six proteins that bind IGFs with high affinity and specificity and thereby regulate IGF-dependent actions. IGFBPs have recently emerged as IGF-independent regulators of cell growth. Cleavage of IGFBPs by specific proteases modulate levels of free IGFs and IGFBPs and thereby their actions. IGFBP-related proteins (IGFBP-rPs) bind IGFs with low affinity and also play important roles in cell growth and differentiation. The GH-IGF-IGFBP axis is complex and powerful. Future research on its physiology promises exciting insights into cell biology as well as therapies for diseases such as cancer and diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Somatomedins / physiology*


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins
  • Somatomedins