Down-regulation of type I insulin-like growth factor receptor increases sensitivity of breast cancer cells to insulin

Hua Zhang, Alissa M. Pelzer, David T. Kiang, Douglas Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


The type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF1R) and insulin receptor (IR) are structurally and functionally related heterotetrameric receptors. Activation of IGF1R has been shown to regulate breast cancer cell biology, and it has become an attractive therapeutic target. Most strategies have focused on targeting IGF1R alone without affecting IR levels given the known physiologic functions of IR. Human breast cancer cell lines and tissues revealed mRNA expression of both IGF1R and IR. Because αβ chains of IGF1R and IR form hybrid receptors, we hypothesized that agents solely targeting IGF1R may affect tumor biology mediated by IGF1R/IR hybrids and IR. We used small interfering RNA (siRNA) technology to specifically down-regulate IGF1R by 60% to 80% in the MDA-435/LCC6 cell line, which was sufficient to diminish activation of IGF1R by IGF-I. IGF1R down-regulation by siRNA did not affect IR levels but, interestingly, sensitized cells to insulin activation of downstream signaling pathways in several breast cancer cell lines. IGF1R siRNA treatment diminished hybrid receptor formation, suggesting that specific down-regulation of IGF1R resulted in enhanced holo-IR formation. In addition, IGF1R down-regulation increased insulin binding consistent with the formation of an increased number of holo-IR on the cell surface. Accordingly, insulin-stimulated glucose uptake was enhanced on IGF1R down-regulation. In conclusion, our data suggest that specific siRNA targeting of IGF1R alone in breast cancer increases insulin sensitivity. Because IR also activates signaling pathways similar to IGF1R in breast cancer cells, agents targeting both receptors may be necessary to disrupt the malignant phenotype regulated by this growth factor system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-397
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007


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