The receptors for insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) are closely related in primary sequence and overall structure. We have examined the immunological relationships between these receptors by testing the reactivity of anti-(insulin receptor) monoclonal antibodies with IGF-I receptors in various tissues and cell lines. Antibodies for six distinct epitopes reacted with a subfraction of IGF-I receptors, as shown by inhibition of 125I-IGF-I binding, precipitation of 125I-IGF-I-receptor complexes or immunodepletion of receptor from tissue extracts before binding assays. Both immunoreactive and non-immunoreactive subfractions displayed the expected properties of ‘classical’ IGF-I receptors, in terms of relative affinities for IGF-I and insulin. The proportion of total IGF-I receptors which was immunoreactive varied in different cell types, being approx. 40% in Hep G2 cells, 35-40% in placental membranes and 75-85% in IM-9 cells. The immunoreactive fraction was somewhat higher in solubilized receptors than in the corresponding intact cells or membranes. A previously described monoclonal antibody, alpha-IR-3, specific for IGF-I receptors, inhibited IGF-I binding by more than 80% in all preparations. When solubilized placental receptors were pretreated with dithiothreitol (DTT) under conditions reported to reduce intramolecular (class I) disulphide bonds, the immunoreactivity of IGF-I receptors was abolished although total IGF-I binding was little affected. Under the same conditions insulin receptors remained fully immunoreactive. When solubilized receptor preparations were fractionated by gel filtration, both IGF-I and insulin receptors ran as symmetrical peaks of identical mobility. After DTT treatment, the IGF-I receptor was partially converted to a lower molecular mass form which was not immunoreactive. The insulin receptor peak showed a much less pronounced skewing and remained fully immunoreactive in all fractions. It is concluded that the anti- (insulin receptor) antibodies do not react directly with IGF-I receptor polypeptide, and that the apparent immunoreactivity of a subfraction of IGF-I receptors reflects their physical association with insulin receptors, both in cell extracts and in intact cells. The most likely basis for this association appears to be a ‘hybrid’ receptor containing one half (alpha beta) of insulin receptor polypeptide and the other (alpha‘beta’) of IGF-I receptor polypeptide within the native (alpha beta beta‘alpha’) heterotetrameric structure.

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