Insulin receptor content in tissues of normal and diabetic rats measured by radioimmunoassay

J Endocrinol Invest. 1996 Oct;19(9):593-7. doi: 10.1007/BF03349023.


Insulin receptor (IR) content in different tissues has been quantitatively evaluated by means of steady state binding studies with radiolabeled insulin. The information provided by this approach, however, does not give a direct measurement of the receptor protein. Rather, it depends on the binding function of the IR, evaluated on the basis of curvilinear plots derived by Scatchard analysis of the experimental data. In the present report we employed a sensitive and specific radioimmunoassay (RIA) that allows a direct measurement of IR in solubilized cells or tissues. By this method we studied: a) IR distribution in several tissues of the rat, the animal model most frequently used in studies of insulin action; b) IR regulation in streptozotocin-treated, diabetic insulin deficient rats. Tissues from male Wistar rats (11 controls and 6 streptozotocin-treated diabetic animals) were homogenized, solubilized with Triton X-100 in the presence of protease inhibitors and stored at -80 C. IR content in the solubilized material was then measured by RIA. IR were detectable in all 11 tissues tested. Liver, kidney and brain neocortex had the highest IR content. (24.7 +/- 1.0, 20.5 +/- 1.1, 25.9 +/- 1.6 ng/mg protein, m +/- SE, respectively). As expected, circulating insulin levels were lower in diabetic rats than in control rats. In diabetic, insulin deficient rats, liver, kidney and skeletal muscle contained more IR than in control rats (p = 0.001; p = 0.018; p = 0.003, respectively), whereas IR content in neocortex was similar in the two groups. The IR RIA may represent a useful tool for the study of IR regulation and patho-physiology. Our data provide a comparative direct measurement of IR distribution in a variety of rat tissues. IR content in diabetic rats is increased in typical target organs for insulin action, as a consequence of up-regulation due to the reduced insulin levels. This is not the case for metabolically insulin-dependent tissues, like brain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Insulin