The insulin-like growth factors, IGF-I and IGF-II, and their binding proteins play an important role in the growth and development of the central nervous system. In the brain, colocalization of IGFs and IGFBPs often occurs, suggesting that IGFBPs can modulate IGF action. In one strain of our human (h)IGF-II transgenic mice, which carry an hIGF-II transgene driven by the H-2Kb promoter, we found overexpression of hIGF-II in the brain, as measured by Northern blot analysis. To clarify the localization and influence of the hIGF-II transgene on different components of the GH-IGF axis in the brain, we studied the expression pattern of the hIGF-II transgene, endogenous IGF-I and IGF-II, and IGFBP-2, -3 and -5 in the brain of prepubertal 4-week-old mice, using nonradioactive in situ hybridization. We found that the hIGF-II transgene is exclusively expressed in neurons of the piriform cortex, the cerebral cortex, the medulla oblongata and the granular layer of the cerebellum. In general, this pattern is comparable to the expression pattern of endogenous IGF-I, with a few exceptions: there is no expression of IGF-I in the granular layer of the cerebellum, whereas the Purkinje cells of the cerebellum and thalamus both express IGF-I but no hIGF-II transgene. This hIGF-II transgene expression pattern contrasts markedly with endogenous IGF-II expression, which is mainly located in nonneuronal cells such as the meninges and choroid plexus, and in some nuclei of the medulla oblongata. The hIGF-II transgene affects neither endogenous IGF-I and IGF-II expression, nor the expression of IGFBP-3, which is located in the choroid plexus. Although the hIGF-II transgene is expressed in neuronal structures similar to IGF-I and IGFBP-5, it is not able to regulate IGFBP-5 expression, as has previously been reported for IGF-I. In the medulla oblongata, the IGFBP-2 expression level showed 10-fold upregulation by the transgene, suggesting a modulating role for IGFBP-2 at the hIGF-II transgene action in this region.
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