Insulin receptors in lizard brain and liver: structural and functional studies of α and β subunits demonstrate evolutionary conservation

J. Shemer*, J. C. Penhos, Derek LeRoith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Specific insulin receptors are present in the liver and brain of the lizard Anolis carolinesis. In this study, the specific binding of 125I-insulin to the receptors showed time, temperature and pH dependency. Specific binding to crude membranes prepared from brain was 1-2% of the total radioactivity added compared to 4-5% in the crude membranes prepared from liver. Solubilization and wheat germ agglutinin purification of the membranes resulted in an increase in the specific binding (per mg of protein) between 6 and 32 times for liver membranes and 13-186 for brain membranes. Binding inhibition of tracer insulin by unlabeled porcine insulin was characteristic for insulin receptors with 50% inhibition for liver crude membranes at 60 ng/ml of porcine insulin and 0.7 ng/ml for purified brain insulin receptors. Chicken insulin was 2- to 3-fold more potent and proinsulin about 100 times less potent than porcine insulin. The α-subunits of liver and brain had apparent molecular weights on sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of 135 kDa and 120 kDa respectively. Apparent molecular weights of β subunits were 92 kDa for both tissues. Insulin stimulated phosphorylation of the β subunit of both brain and liver receptors. Both tissues demonstrated tyrosine-specific phosphorylation, which was stimulated by insulin, of exogenously added artificial substrates. In addition, purified brain insulin receptor preparations contained an endogenous protein with apparent molecular weight of 105 kDa, whose phosphorylation was stimulated by insulin (10-7 mol/l). This phosphoprotein was not immunoprecipitated by anti-insulin receptor antibodies. These studies suggest that the structural differences between brain and liver receptors previously demonstrated in the rat are also present in the lizard, which is about 300,000,000 years older than the mammalian species. Thus, there is strong evolutionary conservation of the brain insulin receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-329
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Insulin receptor
  • evolution
  • nervous system
  • phosphorylation
  • reptiles


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