Elevated serum levels of IGF-1 are sufficient to establish normal body size and skeletal properties even in the absence of tissue IGF-1



Use of recombinant insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) as a treatment for primary IGF-1 deficiency in children has become increasingly common. When untreated, primary IGF-1 deficiency may lead to a range of metabolic disorders, including lipid abnormalities, insulin resistance, and decreased bone density. To date, results of this therapy are considered encouraging; however, our understanding of the role played by IGF-1 during development remains limited. Studies on long-term treatment with recombinant IGF-1 in both children and animals are few. Here, we used two novel transgenic mouse strains to test the long-term effects of elevated circulating IGF-1 on body size and skeletal development. Overexpression of the rat igf1 transgene in livers of mice with otherwise normal IGF-1 expression (HIT mice) resulted in approximately threefold increases in serum IGF-1 levels throughout growth, as well as greater body mass and enhanced skeletal size, architecture, and mechanical properties. When the igf1 transgene was overexpressed in livers of igf1 null mice (KO-HIT), the comparably elevated serum IGF-1 failed to overcome growth and skeletal deficiencies during neonatal and early postnatal growth. However, between 4 and 16 weeks of age, increased serum IGF-1 fully compensated for the absence of locally produced IGF-1 because body weights and lengths of KO-HIT mice became comparable with controls. Furthermore, micro-computed tomography (µCT) analysis revealed that early deficits in skeletal structure of KO-HIT mice were restored to control levels by adulthood. Our data indicate that in the absence of tissue igf1 gene expression, maintaining long-term elevations in serum IGF-1 is sufficient to establish normal body size, body composition, and both skeletal architecture and mechanical function. © 2010 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research