Monolayer cultures of islet B-cells were established from neonatal rat pancreas. Serum-free media conditioned by these cultures for 72 h were concentrated and fractionated on Sephadex G-50 at acid pH into a high-molecular-weight pool containing binding protein for insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) and a low-molecular-weight pool containing IGFs. IGF activity in the IGF pool was demonstrated by a specific radioreceptor assay using rat liver plasma membranes and 125I-labeled rat IGF-II. The IGF in islet cell media was characterized further by radioimmunoassays specific for human IGF-I and for rat IGF-II. Islet cell IGF was identified as predominantly IGF-I or a closely related species and not IGF-II. Levels of ∼15–50 ng IGF-I (based on human IGF-I standard)/106 islet cells accumulated in media after 72 h, and presumably represented synthesis by the islet cells. Concentrations of IGF-I attained in culture media, ∼0.1 ng/mf, were sufficient to stimulate [3H]thymidine incorporation into B-cells. Growth hormone did not consistently increase IGF-I synthesis, suggesting that the previously described effects of growth hormone on islet cell replication do not result from stimulation of IGF-I synthesis by islet cells. Thus, although the IGF-I synthesized by islet cells may be a physiologically relevant growth factor for these cells, the mitogenic effects of growth hormone in islet cells appear to be independent and not mediated by IGF-I.

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