Our previous studies have shown that mammalian and salmon insulins stimulate sulphate uptake by cultured eel cartilage, suggesting the possible involvement of insulin in the regulation of cartilage matrix synthesis. In the present study, homologous eel insulin was isolated and characterized, and its effects on cartilage matrix synthesis and DNA synthesis were examined in vitro. Insulin was extracted from eel pancreas with acid–ethanol, and subsequently purified by isoelectric precipitation at pH 5·3, gel filtration on Sephadex G-50, and reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. The amino acid composition and complete sequence (50 residues) of eel insulin revealed high homology to teleostean and mammalian insulins. The isolated eel insulin produced a more pronounced and longer lasting hypoglycaemic effect than bovine insulin in the eel. Homologous eel insulin, like bovine insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) and insulin, stimulated sulphate uptake by cultured eel cartilage in a dose-dependent manner (16–1000 ng/ml). Combination experiments using maximal concentrations of bovine IGF-I (250 ng/ml) and increasing amounts of eel insulin (10–250 ng/ml) showed no additive effects of insulin on sulphate uptake, suggesting that insulin and IGF-I may share a common mechanism(s) of action. Eel insulin and bovine IGF-I also enhanced thymidine incorporation by eel cartilage in a dose-dependent manner (4–1000 ng/ml); eel insulin was equipotent with bovine IGF-I. These results suggest that insulin, like IGF-I, may exert direct growth-promoting actions in branchial cartilage of the eel.
Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 133, 221–230