In this study, we examined the effects of system- ically administered insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and -II on growth of the hypophysectomized (Hx) neonatal rat. Neonatal Wistar rats were Hx or sham Hx on postnatal day (PND) 6 and implanted sc with Alzet pumps on PND 10. Recombinant human IGF-I or -II were infused between PND 10 and 18 at an average dose of 1.9 μg/g body weight (BW) per day. In addition, some groups received daily sc injections of recombinant human GH or thyroxine (T4) at 2, 5 Mg and 25 ng/g BW per day, respectively. Pups were sacrificed on PND 18 and serum IGF levels determined. Despite restoration of serum IGF-I levels to sham control values in the Hx pups infused with IGF-I, no significant increase in BW occurred, although some increase in individual organ growth was observed (spleen, kidney, lung). Similarly, administration of IGF-II proved ineffective as a growth promoter in the neonatal Hx rat. In contrast, GH alone stimulated BW gain (P < 0.001), T4 proved most potent in increasing skeletal growth (50% increase over Hx controls, P < 0.001), without increasing serum IGF-I or -II levels. IGF-Iand GH were equally effective in promoting a small yet statistically significant (17% over Hx controls, P < 0.05) increase in skeletal growth. A synergistic effect on BW was observed with combined administration of T4 plus IGF-I to the Hx pups (P < 0.05). The effects of hormonal therapy on serum IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) was assessed by Western ligand blots. Administration of IGF-I, but not GH, resulted in increased levels of IGFBP-3, the predominant IGFBP of the adult rat. We conclude that systemically administered IGFs in doses that result in normalization of serum levels are ineffective promoters of somatic growth in neonatal rats. While normalization of serum IGF-I levels does result in modest skeletal growth, selective organ growth and increased serum IGFBP-3, growth stimulation does not equal that seen with GH (body weight) or thyroid hormone (skeletal growth). Differences in IGFBP profiles fail to account for the increased potency of GH as a promoter of BW gain. Thus, our data do not support a major endocrine role for IGF-I or -II in neonatal growth, but are consistent with an autocrine/paracrine action of IGF in the mediation of neonatal mammalian growth.
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