The multiple activities of IGF-I and -II are modulated by a family of IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP-1 to -6). Although structurally related, each IGFBP has unique properties and exerts specific functions. IGFBP-5 is the most conserved IGFBP across species and was identified as an essential regulator of physiological processes in bone, kidney and mammary gland. In addition, IGFBP-5 appears to play a decisive role in the control of proliferation of specific tumour cell types. In many situations IGFBP5 exerts biological activities in the absence of IGFs, indicating the existence of IGF-independent actions. This concept was supported by the unexpected localisation of IGFBP-5 in the nucleus and the description of IGFBP-5-specific membrane-bound IGFBP-5 receptor(s). The scope of this review is to summarise the available information about the structure of IGFBP-5 and the regulation of its expression. Furthermore, the potential significance of IGFBP-5 in the regulation of physiological processes will be critically analysed in the light of recent experimental data.
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