The Insulin/IGF System in Mammalian Sexual Development and Reproduction

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 9;20(18):4440. doi: 10.3390/ijms20184440.


Persistent research over the past few decades has clearly established that the insulin-like family of growth factors, which is composed of insulin and insulin-like growth factors 1 (IGF1) and 2 (IGF2), plays essential roles in sexual development and reproduction of both males and females. Within the male and female reproductive organs, ligands of the family act in an autocrine/paracrine manner, in order to guide different aspects of gonadogenesis, sex determination, sex-specific development or reproductive performance. Although our knowledge has greatly improved over the last years, there are still several facets that remain to be deciphered. In this review, we first briefly outline the principles of sexual development and insulin/IGF signaling, and then present our current knowledge, both in rodents and humans, about the involvement of insulin/IGFs in sexual development and reproductive functions. We conclude by highlighting some interesting remarks and delineating certain unanswered questions that need to be addressed in future studies.

Keywords: INS/IGF signaling; Sertoli cell development; mammalian reproduction; sexual development; steroidogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Sex Differentiation / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • IGF1 protein, human
  • IGF2 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II