Experiments were performed to test the hypothesis that insulin stimulates DNA synthesis in cerebral microvessel endothelium and smooth muscle. Cultured endothelium and smooth muscle derived from isolated mouse cerebral microvessels were exposed to insulin in serum-free medium, and [3H]-thymidine incorporation in the cells was measured. Up to 40-fold stimulation of DNA synthesis in endothelium and fourfold stimulation in smooth muscle were observed. Stimulation became maximal in both cell types at an insulin concentration of approximately 104 ng/ml, although an effect was observed at much lower concentrations. Similar concentrations of insulin produced a less-dramatic (approximately twofold) increase in both endothelial and smooth muscle cell numbers. This effect of insulin, observed in microvessel endothelium and smooth muscle, but not in bovine aortic endothelium, emphasizes another way in which large- and small-vessel endothelia appear to differ.

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