We have studied the effects of two polyclonal anti-insulin receptor antibodies (AIRA) on insulin receptor downregulation and turnover in rat hepatocytes in primary culture. Downregulation was determined by measurement of insulin binding after acid washing of cells to remove AIRA. Insulin receptor turnover was estimated by measurement of insulin binding after inhibition of synthesis of functional receptors with tunicamycin (0.5 μg/ml). Exposure of hepatocytes to AIRA (both sera were of comparable effectiveness) resulted in progressive, time- and dose-dependent losses of insulin binding (maximal loss was about 55% after 24 h of incubation with AIRA diluted 1:25). Cycloheximide (100 μM) prevented AIRA-mediated downregulation.
The t½ of disappearance of cell surface insulin binding capacity determined with tunicamycin was 8.0 h. Addition of insulin (1000 ng/ml) or AIRA to tunicamycin reduced the t½ to 2.6 h (insulin), 2.2 h (patient B10), and 2.0 h (patient 1). These data suggest that (1) AIRA downregulated insulin receptors on cultured hepatocytes by accelerating their rate of disappearance, (2) inhibition of protein synthesis prevented AIRA-mediated downregulation, and (3) downregulation by AIRA of insulin binding may be partially responsible for the desensitization of target cells to some of the insulinlike actions of these autoantibodies.