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D. G. Armstrong and C. O. Hogg


The biological activity of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) is mediated by a transmembrane glycoprotein (type-1 IGF receptor or IGF-I receptor) that shows considerable sequence homology with the insulin receptor. In order to detect the expression of this gene in chicken liver tissue, a plasmid was constructed containing a fragment of chicken IGF-I receptor cDNA. The cDNA fragment corresponded to nucleotides 326–599 of the human IGF-I receptor cDNA and showed 86.1 and 69.3% homology at the nucleotide level and 96.7 and 80.2% homology at the amino acid level with the human IGF-I receptor and insulin receptor respectively. The construct was used to generate an antisense RNA probe for the detection of IGF-I receptor mRNA transcripts in 1- and 4-week-old chick liver tissue.

IGF-I receptor gene expression was initially detected by the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction using synthetic chicken IGF-I receptor oligonucleotides. Amplified fragments of the correct size were detected in both RNA samples. Northern blots were also used to detect IGF-I receptor mRNA transcripts in the liver RNA samples. The results indicated that the amount of receptor mRNA decreased significantly between 1 and 4 weeks after hatch. In contrast, chicken β-actin gene expression remained constant over this period. A major IGF-I receptor RNA transcript (11 kb) was observed in blots from 1-week-old livers, less abundant transcripts were also observed ranging in size from 8 to 9 kb. No bands were detected in blots from 4-week-old livers.

The results indicate that the steady-state level of chicken liver IGF-I receptor mRNA decreased significantly 1–4 weeks after hatch. It is not known whether this difference was due to a decrease in gene expression and/or an increase in the rate of IGF-I receptor mRNA degradation.

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D G Armstrong and C O Hogg


An RNase protection assay is described that allowed the quantitative analysis of chicken type-I IGF receptor mRNA transcripts. The transcripts were measured in extracts of total nucleic acid (TNA) and, under the hybridization conditions described, protected probes of the expected size were obtained. The RNA-RNA hybrids could be quantified in the presence of at least a 1000-fold molar excess of DNA containing sequences which were complimentary to the RNA probe. The amount of protected probe was linearly related to the amount of TNA in the hybridization reaction medium, and this allowed the results to be expressed in the form of mRNA molecules/cell.

Type-I IGF receptor mRNA transcripts were detected in all the tissues examined from a 20day-old chick embryo. Their amount ranged from 5 to 24 molecules/cell, in the order liver<breast muscle<leg muscle<heart<brain. The amount of receptor mRNA was 65- to 300-fold less than that of β-actin mRNA.

The quantity of type-I IGF receptor mRNA varied significantly throughout embryonic and post-hatch development. Maximum amounts were measured in 21-day-old embryos (a two- to fourfold increase relative to 16-day-old embryos). Thereafter the amount of receptor mRNA decreased, during the 4-week period after hatching, to levels which were significantly lower than that observed in 16-day-old embryos. Throughout the period of embryonic and post-hatch development described here the amount of β-actin mRNA remained constant, indicating that the changes in the quantity of receptor mRNA were due to specific mechanisms acting directly on the steady-state levels of type-I IGF receptor mRNA.

Selection for increased growth had no effect on the amount of type-I IGF receptor mRNA. The result was the same when expressed either as molecules/cell or as a percentage of β-actin mRNA.