Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), when isolated from serum or tissue fluids, are usually found as part of a protein complex which also contains one of several IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs). Although some IGFBPs have been shown to alter interactions of IGFs with their receptors in vitro and can modify the responses of cultured cells to exogenous IGFs, the in vivo functions of IGFBPs remain unclear. This study examines expression of a recently described IGFBP gene, IGFBP-5, in the rat embryo and fetus and in selected adult tissues. Embryonic IGFBP-5 messenger RNA (mRNA) can be detected as early as embryonic day 10.5 and has an mRNA expression pattern distinct from the previously characterized pattern of IGFBP-2 mRNA expression. Major sites of IGFBP-5 expression during early postimplantation stages of development include the notochord, the floor plate, regions of the surface ectoderm, muscle precursor cells, and specific axial regions of neuroepithelium. Later in development IGFBP-5 mRNA is found in several regions of the central nervous system, including the proliferative zone of the external granule layer of the cerebellum and the mitral neurons of the olfactory bulb, as well as in muscle precursor populations of the developing limb, and in most cells of the anterior pituitary. In addition, only a subset of pituicytes in the adult posterior pituitary express IGFBP-5, which provides the first evidence that this cell population is biochemically heterogeneous. Taken together, these data suggest functions for IGFBP-5 during development of several organ systems.
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