(1) Many cell types secrete insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-binding proteins that can be expected to sequester free IGF and modify the biological activities of the growth factors. (2) A binding protein purified from bovine kidney (MDBK) cells potently inhibited the ability of IGF-2 to stimulate DNA synthesis or protein accumulation as well as to reduce rates of protein breakdown in chick embryo fibroblasts. The binding protein did not influence the biological activities of des-(1-3)-IGF-1, while effects on IGF-1 were intermediate. Since the chick embryo fibroblasts contain only the type 1 IGF receptor, the MDBK-cell binding protein must have reduced the accessibility of IGF-2 and IGF-1 to that receptor. Binding to the type 2 receptor on L6 myoblasts was also inhibited. (3) Inhibiting effects on both protein breakdown responsiveness to IGF and IGF binding to cell receptors were also observed with human amniotic fluid binding protein, although here IGF-1 and IGF-2 were equipotent. These results contrast with stimulatory responses on different IGF-1 actions of the same binding protein reported previously [Elgin, Busby & Clemmons (1987) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 84, 3254-3258]. (4) The biological potencies of IGF-1, IGF-2 and des-(1-3)-IGF-1 correlate inversely with their binding to proteins released into the medium by cells, so that the enhanced potency of des-(1-3)-IGF-1 is a consequence of it not binding to purified binding proteins or those released by cultured cells.

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