The role of insulin receptor signaling in the brain

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;16(2):59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2005.01.008.


The insulin receptor (IR) is expressed in various regions of the developing and adult brain, and its functions have become the focus of recent research. Insulin enters the central nervous system (CNS) through the blood-brain barrier by receptor-mediated transport to regulate food intake, sympathetic activity and peripheral insulin action through the inhibition of hepatic gluconeogenesis and reproductive endocrinology. On a molecular level, some of the effects of insulin converge with those of the leptin signaling machinery at the point of activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), resulting in the regulation of ATP-dependent potassium channels. Furthermore, insulin inhibits neuronal apoptosis via activation of protein kinase B in vitro, and it regulates phosphorylation of tau, metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein and clearance of beta-amyloid from the brain in vivo. These findings indicate that neuronal IR signaling has a direct role in the link between energy homeostasis, reproduction and the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Insulin / physiology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Insulin
  • Glucose