Insulin-like growth factor binding proteins in maternal serum throughout gestation and in the puerperium: effects of a pregnancy-associated serum protease activity

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1990 Oct;71(4):806-16. doi: 10.1210/jcem-71-4-806.


The cDNAs encoding three major insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins (IGFBPs) have been cloned and sequenced. We have examined, by Western ligand blotting, the profiles of these binding proteins in human female serum in the normal menstrual cycle, throughout pregnancy, and during the postpartum period. There was no change in the serum profile of any of the binding proteins in early pregnancy compared to that in the secretory phase of the menstrual cycle. However, there was a marked decrease in circulating levels of the main serum IGFBP, IGFBP-3, after 6 weeks of gestation, continuing progressively to term and returning to nonpregnant levels by 5 days postpartum. IGFBP-2 decreased steadily throughout gestation. In contrast, IGFBP-1 levels were found to rise by the second trimester. Endoglycosidase-F digestion did not enhance detection of IGFBP-3 by ligand blotting. Immunoprecipitations with two separate antibodies against IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-2, followed by Western ligand blotting, confirmed the marked decrease in IGFBP-3 levels after 6 weeks of gestation and the more gradual decrease in IGFBP-2. In contrast, immunoprecipitations with IGFBP-1 monoclonal antibodies confirmed the increase in IGFBP-1 during gestation. Endogenous serum IGFs were separated from serum IGFBPs by acid chromatography, and an 80% decrease in total IGF-binding activity in the IGFBP fraction of chromatographed pregnancy vs. nonpregnancy serum was detected by charcoal absorption assay. Furthermore, immunoprecipitations of IGF affinity cross-linked IGFBP fractions with IGFBP-3-specific antiserum confirmed a marked diminution of IGFBP-3 in pregnancy compared to nonpregnancy serum, and revealed, only in pregnancy serum, the concomitant appearance of a band with a mol wt of 34K and three less intense bands with mol wt between 20-26K on sodium dodecyl sulfate gels. Incubation of nonpregnancy serum with 6-week pregnancy serum at 37 C for 5 h, followed by Western ligand blotting, showed only a slight reduction in the amount of IGFBP-3 in the mixture compared to that in controls. However, incubation of term pregnancy with nonpregnancy serum at 37 C for 5 h revealed a marked reduction of IGFBP-3 in the mixture. When iodinated recombinant IGFBP-3 was incubated with term pregnancy serum under the same conditions, the appearance of a 29K protein was identified by gel electrophoresis and autoradiography, along with three less intense bands with mol wt between 17-22K.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoradiography
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins
  • Peptide Hydrolases / blood*
  • Postpartum Period / blood*
  • Pregnancy / blood*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins
  • Peptide Hydrolases