Differential Effects of Insulin and IGF1 Receptors on ERK and AKT Subcellular Distribution in Breast Cancer Cells

Rive Sarfstein, Karthik Nagaraj, Derek LeRoith, Haim Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1) have important roles in breast cancer development. The recent identification of nuclear insulin (INSR) and IGF1 (IGF1R) receptors provides a novel paradigm in the area of signal transduction. The fact that INSR and IGF1R can function as transcription factors, capable of binding DNA and controlling transcription, adds a new layer of biological complexity by conferring upon cell-surface receptors the ability to regulate genomic events. The present study was designed to assess the hypothesis that insulin and IGF1 pathways elicit differential effects on subcellular distribution and activation of ERK1/2 and AKT. To this end, MCF7 breast cancer-derived cell lines with specific INSR or IGF1R disruption were employed. In addition, small interfering RNA technology was used to specifically down-regulate INSR or IGF1R expression in T47D breast cancer cells. DNA affinity chromatography assays were conducted to address the specific binding of ERK1/2 and AKT to the IGF1R promoter region. We demonstrate that both INSR and IGF1R exhibit a nuclear localization in breast cancer-derived cells. In addition, the insulin and IGF1 pathways have different effects on the subcellular distribution (and, particularly, the nuclear presence) of ERK1/2 and AKT molecules. Both cytoplasmic mediators are capable of binding and transactivating the IGF1R promoter. In conclusion, our data are consistent with the notion that, in addition to their classical roles as targets for insulin-like molecules, both ERK1/2 and AKT are involved in transcriptional control of the IGF1R gene. This previously unrecognized regulatory loop may provide mechanistic advantages to breast cancer cells. Given the potential role of INSR and IGF1R as therapeutic targets in oncology, it will be of clinical relevance to address the future use of nuclear receptors and their downstream cytoplasmic mediators as biomarkers for INSR/IGF1R targeted therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1499
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


FundersFunder number
National Cancer InstituteR01CA128799


    • IGF1 receptor
    • insulin receptor
    • insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1)
    • signaling


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