The receptor-type protein tyrosine kinases in murine pancreatic islets were screened to identify possible growth/differentiation factors in pancreatic beta-cells. The analysis revealed that insulin receptor-related receptor (IRR) is highly expressed in the islets as well as in several highly differentiated beta-cell lines derived from transgenic mice. Islets predominantly contain IRR as uncleaved proreceptors compared with IRR as processed forms in the beta-cell lines, suggesting that the activity of IRR is regulated on the level of processing proteases in vivo. To examine the IRR signaling pathway, a chimeric receptor consisting of the extracellular domain of insulin receptor and the intracellular domain of IRR was expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells. The hybrid receptor is functional because insulin is capable of tyrosine-phosphorylating the catalytic domain in these cells. It also stimulates the tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 and IRS-2, indicating that both proteins serve as substrates of IRR-protein tyrosine kinase in intact cells. The phenotype of the IRS-2 knockout mouse recently reported suggests that an IRS-2-mediated signaling pathway controls the compensatory increase in pancreatic beta-cell mass in insulin-resistant states. From our findings of the specific expression of IRR and its ability of signaling to IRS-2, we speculate that this receptor might play a role in the regulation of beta-cell mass.

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