Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), the major circulating carrier protein for IGFs, is also active in the cellular environment as a potent antiproliferative agent. It appears to function both by cell cycle blockade and the induction of apoptosis. Transfection of p53 negative T47D breast cancer cells to express IGFBP-3 leads to induction of the apoptotic protein bax and an increase in sensitivity to ionising radiation. IGFBP-3 can be transported to the nucleus by an importin β mediated mechanism, where it has been shown to interact with the retinoid X receptor α and possibly other nuclear elements. Expression of oncogenic ras is associated with resistance to exogenous IGFBP-3, the effect being reversible by inhibition of mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase phosphorylation. IGFBP-3 antiproliferative signalling appears to require an active transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signalling pathway, and IGFBP-3 stimulates phosphorylation of the TGF-β signalling intermediates Smad2 and Smad3. These recent findings all point to a complex intracellular mode of action of IGFBP-3, which will need to be better understood if anti-cancer treatments are to take advantage of the antiproliferative activity of IGFBP-3.
Keywords: insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3, signalling pathway, apoptosis, transforming growth factor β