Treatment of Swarm rat chondrosarcoma chondrocytes for 3 days in media containing either non-recombinant pig or recombinant human insulin (1 micrograms/ml) increased the rate of proteoglycan synthesis approximately 6-fold compared with cells cultured in the absence of insulin. The concentrations of human and pig insulin that stimulated the cells to double their rate of proteoglycan synthesis were approximately 1 ng/ml and approximately 2 ng/ml respectively. Because physiological concentrations of insulin do not influence proteoglycan synthesis in non-transformed chondrocytes, the findings indicated a possible abnormality in the insulin-dependent regulation of the insulin receptor in these tumour cells. Like most cells, chondrosarcoma chondrocytes down-regulated their insulin receptors when incubated with insulin for 30 min. However, the number of plasma-membrane and intracellular insulin receptors did not decrease when the chondrocytes were exposed to insulin chronically for 4 days. Chondrocytes were cultured in media containing 2H-, 13C- and 15N-labelled amino acids, and the heavy-isotope density-shift method was used to investigate both the rate of degradation and the rate of synthesis of the insulin receptor. Although the rate of synthesis of the receptor was slightly faster in the insulin-treated cultures, as assessed by a slightly faster rate of appearance of the ‘heavy’ receptor, the rate of degradation of the receptor was slower in the insulin-treated cultures. The half-lives for the ‘light’ receptors were approx. 18 h and 10 h for chondrocytes cultured in insulin-containing and insulin-free media respectively. These studies in vitro indicate that the apparent up-regulation of insulin receptors that occurs in this transformed cell upon long-term exposure to insulin is primarily the result of a decreased rate of receptor degradation.

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