Cellular actions of the insulin-like growth factor binding proteins

Endocr Rev. 2002 Dec;23(6):824-54. doi: 10.1210/er.2001-0033.


In addition to their roles in IGF transport, the six IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs) regulate cell activity in various ways. By sequestering IGFs away from the type I IGF receptor, they may inhibit mitogenesis, differentiation, survival, and other IGF-stimulated events. IGFBP proteolysis can reverse this inhibition or generate IGFBP fragments with novel bioactivity. Alternatively, IGFBP interaction with cell or matrix components may concentrate IGFs near their receptor, enhancing IGF activity. IGF receptor-independent IGFBP actions are also increasingly recognized. IGFBP-1 interacts with alpha(5)beta(1) integrin, influencing cell adhesion and migration. IGFBP-2, -3, -5, and -6 have heparin-binding domains and can bind glycosaminoglycans. IGFBP-3 and -5 have carboxyl-terminal basic motifs incorporating heparin-binding and additional basic residues that interact with the cell surface and matrix, the nuclear transporter importin-beta, and other proteins. Serine/threonine kinase receptors are proposed for IGFBP-3 and -5, but their signaling functions are poorly understood. Other cell surface IGFBP-interacting proteins are uncharacterized as functional receptors. However, IGFBP-3 binds and modulates the retinoid X receptor-alpha, interacts with TGFbeta signaling through Smad proteins, and influences other signaling pathways. These interactions can modulate cell cycle and apoptosis. Because IGFBPs regulate cell functions by diverse mechanisms, manipulation of IGFBP-regulated pathways is speculated to offer therapeutic opportunities in cancer and other diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Somatomedin / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Somatomedins / physiology


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins
  • Receptors, Somatomedin
  • Somatomedins