The generation of neurons in the adult mammalian brain requires the activation of quiescent neural stem cells (NSCs). This activation and the sequential steps of neuron formation from NSCs are regulated by a number of stimuli, which include growth factors. Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) exert pleiotropic effects, regulating multiple cellular processes depending on their concentration, cell type, and the developmental stage of the animal. Although IGF-I expression is relatively high in the embryonic brain its levels drop sharply in the adult brain except in neurogenic regions, i.e., the hippocampus (HP) and the subventricular zone-olfactory bulb (SVZ-OB). By contrast, the expression of IGF-IR remains relatively high in the brain irrespective of the age of the animal. Evidence indicates that IGF-I influences NSC proliferation and differentiation into neurons and glia as well as neuronal maturation including synapse formation. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that IGF-I not only promote adult neurogenesis by regulating NSC number and differentiation but also by influencing neuronal positioning and migration as described during SVZ-OB neurogenesis. In this article we will revise and discuss the actions reported for IGF-I signaling in a variety of in vitro and in vivo models, focusing on the maintenance and proliferation of NSCs/progenitors, neurogenesis, and neuron integration in synaptic circuits.
Keywords: IGF-I; IGF-IR; differentiation; maturation; migration; neurogenesis; proliferation; survival.