Journal of Cell Communication and Signaling

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 179–189

Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3): Novel ligands mediate unexpected functions

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12079-013-0203-9

Cite this article as:
Baxter, R.C. J. Cell Commun. Signal. (2013) 7: 179. doi:10.1007/s12079-013-0203-9


In addition to its important role in the regulation of somatic growth by acting as the major circulating transport protein for the insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) has a variety of intracellular ligands that point to its function within major signaling pathways. The discovery of its interaction with the retinoid X receptor has led to the elucidation of roles in regulating the function of several nuclear hormone receptors including retinoic acid receptor-α, Nur77 and vitamin D receptor. Its interaction with the nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ is believed to be involved in regulating adipocyte differentiation, which is also modulated by IGFBP-3 through an interaction with TGFβ/Smad signaling. IGFBP-3 can induce apoptosis alone or in conjunction with other agents, and in different systems can activate caspases −8 and −9. At least two unrelated proteins (LRP1 and TMEM219) have been designated as receptors for IGFBP-3, the latter with a demonstrated role in inducing caspase-8-dependent apoptosis. In contrast, IGFBP-3 also has demonstrated roles in survival-related functions, including the repair of DNA double-strand breaks through interaction with the epidermal growth factor receptor and DNA-dependent protein kinase, and the induction of autophagy through interaction with GRP78. The ability of IGFBP-3 to modulate the balance between pro-apoptotic and pro-survival sphingolipids by regulating sphingosine kinase 1 and sphingomyelinases may be integral to its role at the crossroads between cell death and survival in response to a variety of stimuli. The pleiotropic nature of IGFBP-3 activity supports the idea that IGFBP-3 itself, or pathways with which it interacts, should be investigated as targets of therapy for a variety of diseases.


IGFBP-3apoptosisDNA damage repairauthophagysphingosine kinaseGRP78

Copyright information

© The International CCN Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kolling Institute of Medical ResearchUniversity of Sydney, Royal North Shore HospitalSt LeonardsAustralia