The role of nuclear insulin and igf1 receptors in metabolism and cancer

Haim Werner*, Rive Sarfstein, Zvi Laron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Insulin (InsR) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1R) receptors mediate the metabolic and growth-promoting actions of insulin and IGF1/IGF2, respectively. Evidence accumulated in recent years indicates that, in addition to their typical cell-surface localization pattern and ligand-activated mechanism of action, InsR and IGF1R are present in the cell nucleus of both normal and transformed cells. Nuclear translocation seems to involve interaction with a small, ubiquitin-like modifier protein (SUMO-1), although this modification is not always a prerequisite. Nuclear InsR and IGF1R exhibit a number of biological activities that classically fit within the definition of transcription factors. These nuclear activities include, among others, sequence-specific DNA binding and transcriptional control. Of particular interest, nuclear IGF1R was capable of binding and stimulating its cognate gene promoter. The physiological relevance of this autoregulatory mechanism needs to be further investigated. In addition to its nuclear localization, studies have identified IGF1R in the Golgi apparatus, and this particular distribution correlated with a migratory phenotype. In summary, the newly described roles of InsR and IGF1R as gene regulators, in concert with their atypical pattern of subcellular distribution, add a further layer of complexity to traditional models of cell signaling. Furthermore, and in view of the emerging role of IGF1R as a potential therapeutic target, a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for nuclear IGF1R transport and identification of IGF1R interactors might help optimize target directed therapies in oncology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number531
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Cancer
  • Cell nucleus
  • IGF1 receptor
  • Insulin receptor
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1)
  • Transcription factors


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