C-peptide enhances insulin-mediated cell growth and protection against high glucose-induced apoptosis in SH-SY5Y cells

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. Sep-Oct 2003;19(5):375-85. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.389.


Background: We have previously reported that C-peptide exerts preventive and therapeutic effects on diabetic neuropathy in type 1 diabetic BB/Wor-rats and that it prevents duration-dependent hippocampal apoptosis in the same animal model. In the present study, we examined human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells to examine whether C-peptide stimulates cell proliferation/neurite outgrowth and whether it has antiapoptotic effects.

Methods: For neurite outgrowth, serum-starved cultures were treated with C-peptide and/or insulin or IGF-1. Neurites were visualized with NF-L antibody and measured morphometrically. Cell numbers were determined using an electronic cell counter. Scrambled C-peptide was used as a negative control. For assessment of apoptosis, SH-SY5Y cells were incubated with 100 mM glucose for 24 h, and the effects of C-peptide and/or insulin or IGF-1 were examined. Apoptosis was demonstrated by transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL)/4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) stainings, flow cytometry and changes in the expression of Bcl2. Activation of insulin signaling intermediaries was determined by Western blots. Translocation of NF-kappaB was demonstrated immunocytochemically.

Results: C-peptide but not scrambled C-peptide stimulated cell proliferation and neurite outgrowth. In the presence of 4 nM insulin, 3 nM C-peptide significantly increased autophosphorylation of the insulin receptor (IR) but not that of the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R). It stimulated phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI-3 kinase) and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activation, enhanced the expression and translocation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), promoted the expression of Bcl2 and reduced c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) phosphorylation in excess of that of insulin alone.

Conclusions: C-peptide in the presence of insulin exerts synergistic effects on cell proliferation, neurite outgrowth and has in the presence of insulin an antiapoptotic effect on high glucose-induced apoptosis but less so on hyperosmolar-induced apoptosis. These effects are likely to be mediated via interactions with the insulin signaling pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • C-Peptide / pharmacology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Synergism
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Mannitol / pharmacology
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurites / physiology
  • Neuroblastoma


  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin
  • Mannitol
  • Glucose