Localization and Characterization of Insulin‐Like Growth Factor‐I Receptors in Rat Brain and Pituitary Gland Using in vitro Autoradiography and Computerized Densitometry A Distinct Distribution from Insulin Receptors

George A. Werther, Annette Hogg, Brian J. Oldfield, Michael J. McKinley, Ronnie Figdor, Frederick A O Mendelsohn

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In order to identify likely sites of action of insulin‐like growth factor‐I (IGF‐I) in rat brain and pituitary gland, we have used the technique of in vitro autoradiography and computerized densitometry to map, characterize and quantify its receptors in coronal and sagittal sections. A discrete and characteristic distribution of IGF‐I receptor binding was demonstrated, with specific binding representing 85% of total binding. Displacement and specificity competition curves in the olfactory bulb were typical for authentic IGF‐I receptors and computer analysis indicated a single class of binding site with a dissociation constant (Kd) of 13 nM for the choroid plexus and 5.1 nM for the olfactory cortex. IGF‐I receptor density was very high in the choroid plexus in ail ventricles, but the binding in other circumventricular organs was variable, with high levels in the median eminence and the sub‐fornical organ, and low levels in the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis. Highest binding was seen in the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb and its associated regions the taenia tecta and anteromedial olfactory nucleus. The preoptic and septal regions showed moderate binding, while the hypothalamus, with the exception of the median eminence, showed low IGF‐I binding. The pituitary gland showed very high binding density in both anterior and posterior lobes, similar to the median eminence. The thalamus had high IGF‐I binding density, while it was low in basal ganglia. In the limbic system the hippocampal CA2, CAS, CA4 layers showed high binding, with little in CA1, while binding was high also in the adjacent amygdala. Binding was low in the mid and hindbrain, with the exception of the geniculate bodies, and the sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve. Binding was high in the primary olfactory and endopyriform cortex and in specific superficial layers. Cerebellar binding was also high in the molecular layer. Fibre layers showed no binding. Comparison with insulin receptors revealed common distribution in the choroid plexus, paraventricular nucleus, cerebellum, entorhinal cortex and amygdala, with receptor density three‐ to five‐fold higher for IGF‐I than for insulin. In contrast, in the hippocampus, insulin binding was high in the CA1 field, and low in CA2, CA3, CA4 while for IGF‐I binding the converse was seen. The arcuate nucleus showed prominent insulin labelling and minimal IGF‐I binding, while the median eminence showed low insulin and high IGF‐I binding. The hypothalamus was more widely labelled with insulin, while in the thalamus the converse was true. Olfactory bulb laminae were labelled with differing intensity by insulin and IGF‐I. In common with insulin receptor distribution was the high density of IGF‐I receptors over areas of extensive dendritic arborizations which receive rich synaptic inputs, in the cerebellum, hippocampus and olfactory bulb. We conclude that IGF‐I receptors are widespread throughout rat brain and pituitary gland, with concentration in regions concerned with olfaction, autonomie and sensory processing, as well as in regulation of growth hormone release, via feedback at the median eminence and pituitary gland. Many of these regions have in common high rates of metabolic and synthetic activity, which may be mediated by IGF‐I and its receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-377
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • computerized densitometry
  • in vitro autoradiography
  • insulin‐like growth factor‐I receptors
  • rat brain

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