Insulin-like growth factors cross the blood-brain barrier

Endocrinology. 1994 Nov;135(5):1753-61. doi: 10.1210/endo.135.5.7525251.


Although evidence exists that insulin may cross the blood-brain barrier, little is known about the ability of insulin-like growth factors (IGF-I and -II) to cross this barrier. In the present studies, equimolar concentrations of equal specific activity 125I-labeled IGF-I, IGF-II, or insulin were infused into the carotid artery of anesthetized adult rats. The perfusions were carried out for 3 min in the presence or absence of excess unlabeled ligand or insulin, with three or more animals in each group. Immediately after the perfusion, brains were frozen and sectioned for autoradiography. All ligands were detected in choroid plexus, median eminence, and blood vessels, but [125I]IGF-I and -II were also prominently localized in brain parenchyma. Densitometric analysis of film autoradiographs (28-day exposure for all ligands) revealed that radiolabeled IGFs, especially IGF-I, were significantly more abundant throughout the forebrain than [125I]insulin, especially in the paraventricular nucleus, where [125I]IGF-I was 10-fold and [125I]IGF-II was 5-fold more abundant than [125I]insulin. The difference in [125I]IGF-I vs. [125I]insulin accumulation was confirmed by parallel measurements of radioactivity in anatomically matched brain sections using a gamma-spectrometer. The uptake of radiolabeled IGF-I, IGF-II, and insulin by brain parenchyma and vasculature was completely inhibited by excess (1,000-fold) unlabeled ligand; however, insulin (10,000-fold excess) did not completely abolish [125I]IGF-I and -II accumulation. Microscopic evaluation of nuclear emulsion-coated brain sections revealed that radioactivity associated with [125I]IGF-I and -II perfusions was selectively concentrated in capillaries and medium-sized parenchymal cells in the paraventricular nucleus and, to a lesser extent, the supraoptic nucleus and anterior nucleus of the thalamus, whereas in other brain regions the radioligands were mostly bound to capillaries. These results suggest that radiolabeled IGF-I and -II bind to brain capillaries and cross the blood-brain barrier into brain parenchyma more readily than radiolabeled insulin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism*
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • RNA / analysis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Ligands
  • RNA
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II