Insulin–Insulin-like Growth Factors Hybrids as Molecular Probes of Hormone:Receptor Binding Specificity

Insulin, insulin-like growth factors 1 and 2 (IGF-1 and -2, respectively), and their receptors (IR and IGF-1R) are the key elements of a complex hormonal system that is essential for the development and functioning of humans. The C and D domains of IGFs (absent in insulin) likely play important roles in the differential binding of IGF-1 and -2 to IGF-1R and to the isoforms of IR (IR-A and IR-B) and specific activation of these receptors. Here, we attempted to probe the impact of IGF-1 and IGF-2 D domains (DI and DII, respectively) and the IGF-2 C domain (CII) on the receptor specificity of these hormones. For this, we made two types of insulin hybrid analogues: (i) with the C-terminus of the insulin A chain extended by the amino acids from the DI and DII domains and (ii) with the C-terminus of the insulin B chain extended by some amino acids derived from the CII domain. The receptor binding affinities of these analogues and their receptor autophosphorylation potentials were characterized. Our results indicate that the DI domain has a more negative impact than the DII domain does on binding to IR, and that the DI domain Pro-Leu-Lys residues are important factors for a different IR-A versus IR-B binding affinity of IGF-1. We also showed that the additions of amino acids that partially “mimic” the CII domain, to the C-terminus of the insulin B chain, change the binding and autophosphorylation specificity of insulin in favor of the “metabolic” IR-B isoform. This opens new venues for rational enhancement of insulin IR-B specificity by modifications beyond the C-terminus of its B chain.