Mitogenic signalling through the insulin receptor is enhanced compared with metabolic signalling for insulin analogues having slower dissociation kinetics than insulin itself. A plausible explanation in molecular terms of this timing-dependent specificity is lacking. We show here that if signalling is transmitted through a single effector, binding coincidentally with hormone to the insulin receptor and whose association and dissociation kinetics are slow relative to the hormone dissociation rate, the resulting biological effect is predicted to be dependent on hormone-binding kinetics. However, known primary effector molecules associating with the insulin receptor bind and interact rapidly with the receptor, contrary to the assumptions of the single-effector model. A model with two effectors which must bind coincidentally with hormone for signalling to occur also gives the required dependence of signalling on hormone-binding kinetics, provided that at least one of the effectors has slow binding kinetics relative to hormone binding. In this case, the other effector can have rapid kinetics, which is consistent with the properties of the major known substrates of the insulin receptor, such as the insulin receptor substrate (IRS) molecules.

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