Endogenous insulin signaling protects cultured neurons from oxygen-glucose deprivation-induced cell death

Neuroscience. 2006 Nov 17;143(1):165-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.07.055. Epub 2006 Sep 14.


Curiosity surrounding the physiological relevance of neural insulin signaling has gradually developed since the discovery that nervous tissue contains both the hormone and its receptor. Similar to other receptor tyrosine kinases, ligand interaction with the insulin receptor (IR) activates a variety of intracellular signaling pathways, particularly those relevant to cellular survival. Consequently, one explanation for the presence of the insulin pathway in the brain may involve participation in the response to neuronal injury. To investigate this possibility, the present study began by examining the effect of oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD), a well-characterized in vitro model of ischemia, on ligand-binding, surface expression, and function of the IR in cultured rat neurons that were prepared under serum-free conditions. Reduced insulin-binding was observed following OGD, although surface expression of the receptor was not altered. However, OGD did significantly decrease the ability of insulin to stimulate phosphorylation of the transmembrane IR beta-subunit, without affecting protein expression of this subunit. Subsequent experiments focused on the manner in which pharmacologically manipulating IR function affected neuronal viability after OGD. Application of the IR sensitizer metformin moderately improved neuronal viability, while the specific IR tyrosine kinase inhibitor tyrphostin A47 was able to dramatically decrease viability; both compounds acted without affecting IR surface expression. Our study suggests that not only does the IR appear to play an important role in neuronal survival, but also that neurons may actively maintain IRs on the cell surface to compensate for the OGD-induced decrease in the ability of insulin to phosphorylate its receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western / methods
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Glucose / deficiency*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Immunoprecipitation / methods
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Tyrphostins / pharmacology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Tyrphostins
  • tyrphostin 47
  • Metformin
  • Receptor, Insulin
  • Glucose