Transgenic mice which expressed human IGF-binding protein-3 (hIGFBP-3) were generated by pronuclear injection of an hIGFBP-3 cDNA driven by the mouse metallothionein 1 promoter. Two of the seven founder mice had measurable levels of hIGFBP-3 in the circulation. The serum levels of hIGFBP-3 increased as the mice were bred to homozygosity and were further induced by supplementing the drinking water with 25 mm ZnCl2. While the birth weight, litter size and body weight of transgenic mice were not significantly different from non-transgenic litter mates or wild-type mice derived from the same genetic background, the transgenic mice demonstrated selective organomegaly. The spleen, liver and heart of mice derived from both founders were significantly heavier compared with organs from non-transgenic mice (P<0·05, P<0·005 and P<0·01 respectively). The weights of the brain and kidney were similar in transgenic and non-transgenic mice. Expression of the transgene was detected in the kidney, small intestine and colon by Northern blot analysis.
Western ligand blotting of serum from transgenic mice did not demonstrate any change in the abundance of the IGFBPs detected by this method. When serum from transgenic mice was incubated with 125I-labeled IGF-I and analyzed by Sephacryl S-200 chromatography under neutral conditions a significantly (P<0·05) increased amount of the radioactivity was found in the 140 kDa ternary complex compared with serum from wild-type mice. Immunoreactive hIGFBP-3 was detected in the 140 kDa ternary complex but the majority of immunoreactive hIGFBP-3 present in transgenic mouse serum eluted in later fractions indicating that it was not associated with the acid-labile subunit. These data demonstrate that modest constitutive expression of hIGFBP-3 has a selective effect on organ growth and development. The establishment of these IGFBP-3 transgenic mouse strains may provide useful models to investigate further the physiological role of IGFBP-3.