Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1: Recent findings and new directions

Phillip D.K. Lee, Linda C. Giudice, Cheryl A. Conover, David R. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

443 Scopus citations


In 1988, insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1) became the first characterized member of a group of structurally related soluble proteins which specifically bind and modulate the actions of the IGFs. Since then, a wealth of information has accumulated regarding the physiology of this dynamic serum protein. In this review, we update our 1993 summary (Lee PDK et al. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 204:4-29) of the status of IGFBP-1 research. The IGFBP-1 protein sequence contains 12 N-terminal and 6 C-terminal cysteine residues which are conserved in other mammalian IGFBP-1 sequences and amongst other IGFBPs; both of the cysteine-rich regions are required for optimal IGF binding. The nonconserved IGFBP-1 midregion may act as both a hinge which defines ligand binding characteristics and as a specific target for protease activity. Integrin-binding and phosphorylation sites within the IGFBP-1 sequence have functional significance in vitro, but their physiologic relevance in vivo have not been defined. The human IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-3 genes are contiguous and located in close proximity to the homeobox A (HOXA) gene cluster on chromosome 7. The other IGFBP genes, located on chromosomes 2, 12, and 17, are also associated with HOX clusters, suggesting evolutionary linkage of the IGFBP and HOX gene families. Similarities between the hIGFBP- 1 and phosphoenolpyruvate kinase (PEPCK) promoters, including regions conferring insulin, glucocorticoid, and cyclic adenosine-monophosphate responses, are consistent with our previous hypothesis that IGFBP-1 is involved in regulation of glucose metabolism. The tissue-specific patterns of IGFBP-1 gene expression in liver, kidney, decidua, and ovary may be due to stimulation of IGFBP-1 transcription by hepatic nuclear factor 1 (HNF1) proteins. Clinical and basic studies of IGFBP-1 physiology have been aided by several recently developed assay methods. Numerous investigations have confirmed that insulin, via inhibition of IGFBP-1 transcription, is the primary determinant of IGFBP-1 expression both in vitro and in vivo. IGF-I and IGF-II also have specific inhibitory effects on IGFBP-1 expression. Glucocorticoids and cAMP stimulate IGFBP-1 transcription, but these effects are observed only in conditions of low or absent insulin effect. Other stimulants of IGFBP-1 expression include thyroid hormones and epidermal growth factor. Phorbol ester stimulation of IGFBP-1 expression can supersede the effects of insulin in vitro, however, the mechanism and in vivo correlates of this effect have not been determined. Cytokines and, perhaps, growth hormones may affect IGFBP-1 expression, perhaps by altering the regulatory actions of insulin this effect may have important clinical relevance. IGFBP-1 expression is upregulated in liver and (nonhuman) kidney during postinjury regeneration. The IGF-inhibitory actions of IGFBP-1 has been confirmed by numerous in vitro studies and several in vivo animal investigations, including administration of recombinant IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-1 transgenic models. IGFBP-1 has been shown to inhibit somatic linear growth, weight gain, tissue growth, and glucose metabolism. Moreover, IGFBP-1 appears to be a primary determinant of free IGF-I levels in serum. Excess levels of IGFBP-1 may contribute to growth failure in intrauterine growth restriction and in pediatric chronic renal failure, while low IGFBP-1 levels are associated with obesity and with cardiovascular risk factors in insulin resistance syndromes. Serum IGFBP-1 measurements may be useful biochemical marker in these pathologic conditions. IGFBP-1 is expressed in decidualized stromal cells of the uterine endometrium and in ovarian granulosa cells. IGFBP-1, together with IGFs, insulin, ovarian steroids, cytokines, and other factors, is involved in a complex system which regulates menstrual cycles, ovulation, decidualization, blastocyst implantation, and fetal growth. Models for the role of IGFBP-1 in female reproductive physiology are presented, and evidence for pathophysiologic roles in pre-eclampsia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and uterine malignancy are reviewed. Very recent data indicates that IGFBP-1 undergoes regulated expression in human osteoblasts. Limited information also suggests that IGFBP-1 may be present in peripheral neurons, and that serum IGFBP-1 may increase during exercise and in critical illness. In summary, two major roles for IGFBP-1 in normal physiology can be constructed from current data: (i) As an 'endocrine' factor, IGFBP-1 regulates the bioavailability of serum IGF-I, thereby modulating IGF-mediated tissue metabolism. The dominant regulation of IGFBP-1 expression by meal- related changes in hepatic insulin concentrations provides a dynamic link to substrate availability. (ii) As an autocrine/paracrine factor, IGFBP-1 appears to play a crucial role in the female reproductive system and, in particular, the sequence of events leading from ovulation to implantation to successful fetal outcome. Future investigations will further delineate the manner in which IGFBP-1 participates in these and other physiologic processes, and the mechanisms by which IGFBP-1 may be involved in clinical pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-357
Number of pages39
JournalProceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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