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Caterina Mancarella and Katia Scotlandi

The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system has gained substantial interest due to its involvement in regulating cell proliferation, differentiation and survival during anoikis and after conventional and targeted therapies. However, results from clinical trials have been largely disappointing, with only a few but notable exceptions, such as trials targeting sarcomas, especially Ewing sarcoma. This review highlights key studies focusing on IGF signaling in sarcomas, specifically studies underscoring the properties that make this system an attractive therapeutic target and identifies new relationships that may be exploited. This review discusses the potential roles of IGF2 mRNA-binding proteins (IGF2BPs), discoidin domain receptors (DDRs) and metalloproteinase pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) in regulating the IGF system. Deeper investigation of these novel regulators of the IGF system may help us to further elucidate the spatial and temporal control of the IGF axis, as understanding the control of this axis is essential for future clinical studies.

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Michelle Mohyi and Terry J Smith

Thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO) is a vexing and poorly understood autoimmune process involving the upper face and tissues surrounding the eyes. In TAO, the orbit can become inflamed and undergo substantial remodeling that is disfiguring and can lead to loss of vision. There are currently no approved medical therapies for TAO, the consequence of its uncertain pathogenic nature. It usually presents as a component of the syndrome known as Graves’ disease where loss of immune tolerance to the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) results in the generation of activating antibodies against that protein and hyperthyroidism. The role for TSHR and these antibodies in the development of TAO is considerably less well established. We have reported over the past 2 decades evidence that the insulin-like growth factorI receptor (IGF1R) may also participate in the pathogenesis of TAO. Activating antibodies against IGF1R have been detected in patients with GD. The actions of these antibodies initiate signaling in orbital fibroblasts from patients with the disease. Further, we have identified a functional and physical interaction between TSHR and IGF1R. Importantly, it appears that signaling initiated from either receptor can be attenuated by inhibiting the activity of IGF1R. These findings underpin the rationale for therapeutically targeting IGF1R in active TAO. A recently completed therapeutic trial of teprotumumab, a human IGF1R inhibiting antibody, in patients with moderate to severe, active TAO, indicates the potential effectiveness and safety of the drug. It is possible that other autoimmune diseases might also benefit from this treatment strategy.

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Fumihiko Hakuno and Shin-Ichiro Takahashi

Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) bind specifically to the IGF1 receptor on the cell surface of targeted tissues. Ligand binding to the α subunit of the receptor leads to a conformational change in the β subunit, resulting in the activation of receptor tyrosine kinase activity. Activated receptor phosphorylates several substrates, including insulin receptor substrates (IRSs) and Src homology collagen (SHC). Phosphotyrosine residues in these substrates are recognized by certain Src homology 2 (SH2) domain-containing signaling molecules. These include, for example, an 85 kDa regulatory subunit (p85) of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase), growth factor receptor-bound 2 (GRB2) and SH2-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase 2 (SHP2/Syp). These bindings lead to the activation of downstream signaling pathways, PI 3-kinase pathway and Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) pathway. Activation of these signaling pathways is known to be required for the induction of various bioactivities of IGFs, including cell proliferation, cell differentiation and cell survival. In this review, the well-established IGF1 receptor signaling pathways required for the induction of various bioactivities of IGFs are introduced. In addition, we will discuss how IGF signals are modulated by the other extracellular stimuli or by themselves based on our studies.

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Sriram Gubbi, Gabriela Farias Quipildor, Nir Barzilai, Derek M Huffman, and Sofiya Milman

The insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) signaling pathway has emerged as a major regulator of the aging process, from rodents to humans. However, given the pleiotropic actions of IGF1, its role in the aging brain remains complex and controversial. While IGF1 is clearly essential for normal development of the central nervous system, conflicting evidence has emerged from preclinical and human studies regarding its relationship to cognitive function, as well as cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. This review delves into the current state of the evidence examining the role of IGF1 in the aging brain, encompassing preclinical and clinical studies. A broad examination of the data indicates that IGF1 may indeed play opposing roles in the aging brain, depending on the underlying pathology and context. Some evidence suggests that in the setting of neurodegenerative diseases that manifest with abnormal protein deposition in the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, reducing IGF1 signaling may serve a protective role by slowing disease progression and augmenting clearance of pathologic proteins to maintain cellular homeostasis. In contrast, inducing IGF1 deficiency has also been implicated in dysregulated function of cognition and the neurovascular system, suggesting that some IGF1 signaling may be necessary for normal brain function. Furthermore, states of acute neuronal injury, which necessitate growth, repair and survival signals to persevere, typically demonstrate salutary effects of IGF1 in that context. Appreciating the dual, at times opposing ‘Dr Jekyll’ and ‘Mr Hyde’ characteristics of IGF1 in the aging brain, will bring us closer to understanding its impact and devising more targeted IGF1-related interventions.

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Shoshana Yakar, Haim Werner, and Clifford J Rosen

The discovery of the growth hormone (GH)-mediated somatic factors (somatomedins), insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and -II, has elicited an enormous interest primarily among endocrinologists who study growth and metabolism. The advancement of molecular endocrinology over the past four decades enables investigators to re-examine and refine the established somatomedin hypothesis. Specifically, gene deletions, transgene overexpression or more recently, cell-specific gene-ablations, have enabled investigators to study the effects of the Igf1 and Igf2 genes in temporal and spatial manners. The GH/IGF axis, acting in an endocrine and autocrine/paracrine fashion, is the major axis controlling skeletal growth. Studies in rodents have clearly shown that IGFs regulate bone length of the appendicular skeleton evidenced by changes in chondrocytes of the proliferative and hypertrophic zones of the growth plate. IGFs affect radial bone growth and regulate cortical and trabecular bone properties via their effects on osteoblast, osteocyte and osteoclast function. Interactions of the IGFs with sex steroid hormones and the parathyroid hormone demonstrate the significance and complexity of the IGF axis in the skeleton. Finally, IGFs have been implicated in skeletal aging. Decreases in serum IGFs during aging have been correlated with reductions in bone mineral density and increased fracture risk. This review highlights many of the most relevant studies in the IGF research landscape, focusing in particular on IGFs effects on the skeleton.

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Cheryl A Conover and Claus Oxvig

The zinc metalloproteinase, PAPP-A, enhances local insulin-like growth factor (IGF) action through cleavage of inhibitory IGF-binding proteins, thereby increasing IGF available for IGF receptor-mediated cell proliferation, migration and survival. In many tumors, enhanced IGF receptor signaling is associated with tumor growth, invasion and metastasis. We will first discuss PAPP-A structure and function, and post-translational inhibitors of PAPP-A expression or proteolytic activity. We will then review the evidence supporting an important role for PAPP-A in many cancers, including breast, ovarian and lung cancer, and Ewing sarcoma.

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David R Clemmons

The IGF-binding protein family contains six members that share significant structural homology. Their principal function is to regulate the actions of IGF1 and IGF2. These proteins are present in plasma and extracellular fluids and regulate access of both IGF1 and II to the type I IGF receptor. Additionally, they have functions that are independent of their ability to bind IGFs. Each protein is regulated independently of IGF1 and IGF2, and this provides an important mechanism by which other hormones and physiologic variables can regulate IGF actions indirectly. Several members of the family are sensitive to changes in intermediary metabolism. Specifically the presence of obesity/insulin resistance can significantly alter the expression of these proteins. Similarly changes in nutrition or catabolism can alter their synthesis and degradation. Multiple hormones such as glucocorticoids, androgens, estrogen and insulin regulate IGFBP synthesis and bioavailability. In addition to their ability to regulate IGF access to receptors these proteins can bind to distinct cell surface proteins or proteins in extracellular matrix and several cellular functions are influenced by these interactions. IGFBPs can be transported intracellularly and interact with nuclear proteins to alter cellular physiology. In pathophysiologic states, there is significant dysregulation between the changes in IGFBP synthesis and bioavailability and changes in IGF1 and IGF2. These discordant changes can lead to marked alterations in IGF action. Although binding protein physiology and pathophysiology are complex, experimental results have provided an important avenue for understanding how IGF actions are regulated in a variety of physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions.

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Richard C Lindsey, Charles H Rundle, and Subburaman Mohan

Insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF1) and ephrin ligand (EFN)–receptor (EPH) signaling are both crucial for bone cell function and skeletal development and maintenance. IGF1 signaling is the major mediator of growth hormone-induced bone growth, but a host of different signals and factors regulate IGF1 signaling at the systemic and local levels. Disruption of the Igf1 gene results in reduced peak bone mass in both experimental animal models and humans. Additionally, EFN–EPH signaling is a complex system which, particularly through cell–cell interactions, contributes to the development and differentiation of many bone cell types. Recent evidence has demonstrated several ways in which the IGF1 and EFN–EPH signaling pathways interact with and depend upon each other to regulate bone cell function. While much remains to be elucidated, the interaction between these two signaling pathways opens a vast array of new opportunities for investigation into the mechanisms of and potential therapies for skeletal conditions such as osteoporosis and fracture repair.

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Pierre Poinsot, Martin Schwarzer, Noël Peretti, and François Leulier

In most animal species, postnatal growth is controlled by conserved insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling. In mammals, juvenile growth is characterized by a longitudinal bone growth resulting from the ossification of the growth plate. This ossification is under IGF1 influence through endocrine and paracrine mechanisms. Moreover, the nutritional status has been largely described as an important factor influencing the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling. It is now well established that the gut microbiota modulates the nutrient availability of its host. Hence, studies of the interaction between nutritional status, gut microbiota and bone growth have recently emerged. Here, we review recent findings using experimental models about the impact of gut bacteria on the somatotropic axis and its consequence on the bone growth. We also discuss the perspectives of these studies in opening an entire field for clinical interventions.

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Rhonda D Kineman, Mercedes del Rio-Moreno, and André Sarmento-Cabral

It is clear that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1) is important in supporting growth and regulating metabolism. The IGF1 found in the circulation is primarily produced by the liver hepatocytes, but healthy mature hepatocytes do not express appreciable levels of the IGF1 receptor (IGF1R). Therefore, the metabolic actions of IGF1 are thought to be mediated via extra-hepatocyte actions. Given the structural and functional homology between IGF1/IGF1R and insulin receptor (INSR) signaling, and the fact that IGF1, IGF1R and INSR are expressed in most tissues of the body, it is difficult to separate out the tissue-specific contributions of IGF1/IGF1R in maintaining whole body metabolic function. To circumvent this problem, over the last 20 years, investigators have taken advantage of the Cre/loxP system to manipulate IGF1/IGF1R in a tissue-dependent, and more recently, an age-dependent fashion. These studies have revealed that IGF1/IGF1R can alter extra-hepatocyte function to regulate hormonal inputs to the liver and/or alter tissue-specific carbohydrate and lipid metabolism to alter nutrient flux to liver, where these actions are not mutually exclusive, but serve to integrate the function of all tissues to support the metabolic needs of the organism.