Mass and information feedbacks through receptor endocytosis govern insulin signaling as revealed using a parameter-free modeling framework

J Biol Chem. 2010 Jun 25;285(26):20171-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.106849. Epub 2010 Apr 26.


Insulin and other hormones control target cells through a network of signal-mediating molecules. Such networks are extremely complex due to multiple feedback loops in combination with redundancy, shared signal mediators, and cross-talk between signal pathways. We present a novel framework that integrates experimental work and mathematical modeling to quantitatively characterize the role and relation between co-existing submechanisms in complex signaling networks. The approach is independent of knowing or uniquely estimating model parameters because it only relies on (i) rejections and (ii) core predictions (uniquely identified properties in unidentifiable models). The power of our approach is demonstrated through numerous iterations between experiments, model-based data analyses, and theoretical predictions to characterize the relative role of co-existing feedbacks governing insulin signaling. We examined phosphorylation of the insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate-1 and endocytosis of the receptor in response to various different experimental perturbations in primary human adipocytes. The analysis revealed that receptor endocytosis is necessary for two identified feedback mechanisms involving mass and information transfer, respectively. Experimental findings indicate that interfering with the feedback may substantially increase overall signaling strength, suggesting novel therapeutic targets for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Because the central observations are present in other signaling networks, our results may indicate a general mechanism in hormonal control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Receptor, Insulin