Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 receptors act as ligand-specific amplitude modulators of a common pathway regulating gene transcription

J Biol Chem. 2010 May 28;285(22):17235-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.118620. Epub 2010 Apr 1.


Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) act on highly homologous receptors, yet in vivo elicit distinct effects on metabolism and growth. To investigate how the insulin and IGF-1 receptors exert specificity in their biological responses, we assessed their role in the regulation of gene expression using three experimental paradigms: 1) preadipocytes before and after differentiation into adipocytes that express both receptors, but at different ratios; 2) insulin receptor (IR) or IGF1R knock-out preadipocytes that only express the complimentary receptor; and 3) IR/IGF1R double knock-out (DKO) cells reconstituted with the IR, IGF1R, or both. In wild-type preadipocytes, which express predominantly IGF1R, microarray analysis revealed approximately 500 IGF-1 regulated genes (p < 0.05). The largest of these were confirmed by quantitative PCR, which also revealed that insulin produced a similar effect, but with a smaller magnitude of response. After differentiation, when IR levels increase and IGF1R decrease, insulin became the dominant regulator of each of these genes. Measurement of the 50 most highly regulated genes by quantitative PCR did not reveal a single gene regulated uniquely via the IR or IGF1R using cells expressing exclusively IGF-1 or insulin receptors. Insulin and IGF-1 dose responses from 1 to 100 nm in WT, IRKO, IGFRKO, and DKO cells re-expressing IR, IGF1R, or both showed that insulin and IGF-1 produced effects in proportion to the concentration of ligand and the specific receptor on which they act. Thus, IR and IGF1R act as identical portals to the regulation of gene expression, with differences between insulin and IGF-1 effects due to a modulation of the amplitude of the signal created by the specific ligand-receptor interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Biological
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Insulin
  • Ligands
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1