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H Song, J Beattie, IW Campbell, and GJ Allan

Using site-directed mutagenesis, we have undertaken a study of a potential IGF-binding site in the C-terminal domain of rat IGFBP-5, lying close to or within a previously described heparin-binding domain (residues 201-218) in this protein. After analysis of binding activity using three different methods - ligand blotting, solution phase equilibrium binding and biosensor measurement of real-time on- and off-rates - we report that the mutation of two highly conserved residues within this region (glycine 203 and glutamine 209) reduces the affinity of the binding protein for both IGF-I and IGF-II, while having no effect on heparin binding. In addition, we confirm that mutation of basic residues within the heparin-binding domain (R201L, K202E, K206Q and R214A) results in a protein that has attenuated heparin binding but shows only a small reduction in affinity for IGF-I and -II. Previous findings have described the reduction in affinity of IGFBP-5 for IGFs that occurs after complexation of the binding protein with heparin or other components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and have postulated that such an interaction may result in conformational changes in protein structure, affecting subsequent IGF interaction. Our data suggesting potential overlap of heparin- and IGF-binding domains argue for a more direct effect of ECM modulation of the affinity of IGFBP-5 for ligand by partial occlusion of the IGF-binding site after interaction with ECM.

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H Song, JH Shand, J Beattie, DJ Flint, and GJ Allan

The IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-5 protein contains consensus heparin binding motifs in both its carboxy (C)-terminal and central domains, although only the C-terminal site has previously been shown to be functional. We have made two chimeric IGFBP proteins by switching domains between rat IGFBP-5 and -2, named BP552 and BP522 to reflect the domains present, and a truncated rat IGFBP-5 mutant (1-168), named BP550. The ability of these proteins and wild-type (wt) IGFBPs-5 and -2 to bind to either IGFs or heparin was determined using biosensor real-time analysis and heparin ligand blotting respectively. We report that the chimeric molecules have IGF binding affinities comparable to those of the native IGFBPs from which they were derived and, as expected, the binding of BP550 to IGFs was greatly compromised. More surprising was the finding that the ability of BP552 and BP550 to bind to heparin was equivalent to that of wtIGFBP-5, whereas wtIGFBP-2 and BP522 failed to bind. These results demonstrate that the active heparin binding site in BP552 and BP550 is contained within the central domain of IGFBP-5, and that this site is active only in the absence of the C-terminal domain. We subsequently mutated two basic amino acids (R136A:R137A) in the central consensus binding sites between residues 132-140. This resulted in the loss of heparin binding for BP550, confirming the importance of these two basic amino acids in the central domain heparin binding activity. In light of these findings, we suggest that C-terminally truncated fragments of IGFBP-5 generated in vivo by proteolysis could retain heparin/extracellular matrix binding properties.

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M Boutinaud, JH Shand, MA Park, K Phillips, J Beattie, DJ Flint, and GJ Allan

We have used quantitative RT-PCR to analyse the mRNA expression profile of the major components of the IGF axis in different stages of murine mammary gland development, including late pregnancy, lactation and involution. We have shown that all the genes studied, IGF-I, IGF-II, IGF receptor (IGFR) and IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-1 to -6, were expressed in every stage, albeit at greatly differing levels and displaying unique expression profiles between developmental stages. IGF-I was always expressed at significantly higher levels than either IGF-II or IGFR. This suggests that IGF-I may be the more important IGF during mammary morphogenesis. Overall, IGFBP-3 demonstrated the highest level of expression of any of the IGFBP genes throughout all the developmental stages studied. However, within developmental stages, by far the highest level of expression of any of the IGFBPs was that of IGFBP-5 at day 2 of involution; this was almost an order of magnitude higher than any of the other IGFBP levels recorded. This corroborated our previous findings that the levels of IGFBP-5 protein are highly elevated in the involuting mammary gland, and demonstrated that this up-regulation of IGFBP-5 operates at the level of transcriptional control or message stability. Comparison of the expression profile for these different genes would strongly suggest that they are likely to have differential functions throughout mammary gland development, and also highlights potential interactions and co-regulation between different members of this axis. In addition, our results have identified some similarities and differences in the expression of IGFBPs between the mouse mammary epithelial cell line, HC11, and the normal mammary gland which are worthy of study, most notably the differential regulation of IGFBP-2 and the site of expression of IGFBP-4 and -6. Overall, this study has demonstrated the importance and complexity of the IGF axis during mammary gland development and provides a valuable resource for future research in this area.

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K Phillips, MA Park, LH Quarrie, M Boutinaud, JD Lochrie, DJ Flint, GJ Allan, and J Beattie

The mouse mammary epithelial cell line HC11 upregulates the synthesis of beta-casein (a differentiation marker) following treatment with the lactogenic hormone mix dexamethasone, insulin and prolactin (DIP). We demonstrate that the basal levels of IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-5 secreted by undifferentiated HC11 cells are upregulated 10-fold during DIP-induced cellular differentiation whereas the level of the other IGFBP species secreted by HC11 cells (IGFBP-2) is downregulated during this process. As previously reported, the combination of all three of these hormones is required for synthesis of the differentiation marker beta-casein, whereas basal IGFBP-5 secretion is evident in the absence of any hormonal treatment and, unlike beta-casein, secretion of this protein can be stimulated by binary combinations of the hormones (although maximal levels of IGFBP-5 are achieved in the presence of all three lactogenic hormones). Additionally, levels of IGFBP-5 can be increased by DIP treatment under conditions (non-competency of HC11 cultures or presence of epidermal growth factor) where DIP treatment does not increase synthesis of beta-casein. For IGFBP-2, dexamethasone is a potent inhibitor of secretion whilst prolactin stimulated the secretion of this binding protein into the medium. For the IGFBP axis in HC11 cells we conclude that, although the levels of IGFBP-5 and -2 are influenced by the state of cellular differentiation, the hormonal regulation of the levels of these IGFBP species can be dissociated from the regulation of beta-casein synthesis. In a further series of experiments we demonstrate that IGF-I is able to replace insulin in the DIP lactogenic hormone mix and by the use of a specific IGF-I receptor blocking antibody indicate that the action of IGF-I is mediated through the cell surface IGF-I receptor and not by cross-reaction of IGF-I ligand at the insulin receptor. We discuss our data in the context of the potential role of the IGF axis in the process of cell differentiation and illustrate the significance of our findings in the context of the physiology and life cycle of the mammary epithelial cell.

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S Bramani, H Song, J Beattie, E Tonner, DJ Flint, and GJ Allan

The highly conserved N-and C-terminal domains of IGFBPs are believed to participate in IGF binding, but only recently have some of the critical residues in the IGFBP sequence involved in ligand binding been identified. Here we describe two highly conserved amino acids in the C-terminal domain of rat IGFBP-5 that are involved in binding IGF-I. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to produce two mutants, G203K and Q209A, of rIGFBP-5. Relative to wild-type rIGFBP-5, an 8-fold reduction in affinity for human IGF-I was found for recombinant G203K protein in both IGF-I ligand blots and solution phase ligand binding assays, and a 7-and 6-fold reduction for Q209A respectively. This shows that Gly203 and Gln209 in IGFBP-5 are important determinants in binding IGF-I, and due to their complete conservation in all IGFBP sequences, we suggest that they are likely to be involved in binding IGF-I in all six binding proteins. In addition, these two non-basic residues lie within the ECM binding region (201-218) of IGFBP-5, demonstrating that the C-terminus contains partially overlapping IGF-I and ECM binding sites. We therefore propose that heparin binding to basic amino acids in IGFBP-5 between 201-218 may physically occlude subsequent interaction between IGF-I and Gly203/Gln209, and that this may explain previous work of others showing reduced affinity of ECM bound IGFBP-5 for IGF-I.