The role of insulin and the insulin-like growth factors in the proliferation of the rat thymic lymphocyte

  • Frances R. Khan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Concanavalin A, provoked a 35-fold increase in the rate of proliferation of rat thymocytes. Insulin (10-6M), and insulin-like growth factor I (10-10M) approximately doubled the rate of DNA synthesis. Both of these structurally related molecules acted through the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor. The sequential addition of Concanavalin A and insulin, promoted a much greater proliferative response than to either of the two agonists alone. Insulin also increased the uptake of glucose and amino acids by the cells. Glucose uptake was enhanced at insulin concentrations of 10-6M and 10-10M. Amino acid uptake was more strongly affected at the higher concentration. Insulin-like growth factor I (10-11M) also enhanced amino acid uptake. The effects of insulin on metabolism were mediated by both insulin and type I insulin-like growth factor receptors. These effects were greatly enhanced after a pre-treatment with Concanavalin A. Concanavalin A provided a primary mitogenic signal to the cells. Amongst the responses was an increased expression of insulin and/or type I insulin-like growth factor receptors. The consequent enhanced cellular sensitivity to these agonists, enabled them to facilitate the passage of the cells through the cell cycle by: i) providing a secondary mitogenic signal, and ii) promoting the uptake of raw materials and energy substrates. The initiation of DNA synthesis and passage through the cell cycle was thus punctuated by the sequential expression of various cell surface receptors. This regulated cellular sensitivity, enabling them to react in a precisely orchestrated fashion to hormones and other molecules in their environment. The intracellular mechanism of insulin action remains an enigma. Although the presence of extracellular calcium was essential for insulin stimulation of amino acid uptake and DNA synthesis, the cation did not subserve a direct mediator function. Insulin promoted an increase in intracellular pH, which was mediated by the Na+/H+ antiport. Other mechanisms were probably also involved in mediating the full cellular response to insulin.
Date of Award1989
Original languageEnglish


  • role
  • insulin
  • insulin-like growth factors
  • rat thymic lymphocyte

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