The insulin receptor is expressed and functional in cultured blood-brain barrier endothelial cells, but does not mediate insulin entry from blood-to-brain

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Insulin and its receptor are known to be present and functional in the brain. Insulin cerebrospinal fluid concentrations have been shown to correlate with plasma levels of insulin in a non-linear fashion, indicative of a saturable transport pathway from the blood to the brain interstitial fluid. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether insulin was transported across brain endothelial cells in vitro via an insulin receptor-dependent pathway. The study showed that the insulin receptor was expressed at both mRNA and protein level in bovine brain endothelial cells. Luminally applied radiolabeled insulin showed insulin receptor-mediated binding to the endothelial cells. This caused a dose-dependent increase in Akt-phosphorylation, which was inhibited by co-application of an insulin receptor inhibitor, s961, demonstrating activation of insulin receptor signaling pathways. Transport of insulin across the blood-brain barrier in vitro was low and comparable to that of a similarly sized paracellular marker. Furthermore, insulin transport was not inhibited by co-application of an excess of unlabeled insulin or an insulin receptor inhibitor. The insulin transport and uptake studies were repeated in mouse brain endothelial cells demonstrating similar results. Although it cannot be ruled out that culture induced changes in the cell model could have impaired a potential insulin transport mechanism, these in vitro data indicate that peripheral insulin must reach the brain parenchyma through alternative pathways rather than crossing the blood-brain barrier via receptor mediated transcytosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)E531-E542
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 197399545