The rat kidney is both a target of circulating insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and a site of local IGF-I production. In order to identify which renal structures produce IGF-I and the functionally related IGF binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1), and which structures are potential sites of circulating or endogenous renal IGF action, we have employed in situ hybridization to localize IGF-I, IGFBP-1, and IGF-I receptor messenger RNAs (mRNAs) in the rat kidney. The effects of hypophysectomy (Hx) and GH replacement on renal IGF-I, IGFBP-1, and IGF-I receptor gene expression have also been evaluated. IGF-I and IGFBP-1 mRNAs are both localized in the epithelial cells of medullary thick ascending limbs (TALs) of Henle’s loops in the normal rat kidney. IGF-I receptor mRNA is also abundant in TALs, but, in addition, is distributed throughout the distal nephron and collecting duct, and in the glomerulus, with lowest levels found in proximal tubules. Hx and GH treatment had complex effects on patterns of renal IGF-I and IGFBP-1 gene expression. In general, Hx resulted in decreased IGF-I and increased IGFBP-1 mRNA levels, and GH treatment produced the opposite effects, while IGF-I receptor mRNA levels were not significantly effected by either treatment. However, the most dramatic effect produced by the interruption of the pituitary-renal axis was the demonstration of reciprocal changes in IGF-I us. IGFBP-1 gene expression in individual kidneys and even in individual nephrons, suggesting a local interaction between IGF-I and IGFBP-1 in the regulation of their respective mRNA levels. Functional implications issuing from these anatomical relationships in renal patterns of IGF-I, IGFBP-1, and IGF-I receptor gene expression are that IGF-I, if secreted into the tubular lumen, possibly carried or modulated by IGFBP-1, may act on luminal TAL and downstream receptor sites. The specific physiological role of IGF-I produced in TALs is open to speculation. Glomerular IGF-I receptor sites, based on their localization upstream and distant from local sources of IGF-I production, are predicted to be targets for circulating IGFs.
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