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We examined the effects of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) and insulin on erythropoietin (EPO) production by human hepatoma cells (Hep G2). Compared with normoxia (20% O2), EPO production by Hep G2 cells during a 72-h incubation was stimulated fivefold by exposure to low oxygen tension (1% O2) and nearly threefold by exposure to cobalt chloride (100 microM). IGF-I caused a concentration-dependent attenuation of EPO formation under normoxic conditions and inhibited (maximally 50%) EPO production stimulated by either low oxygen tension or cobalt [half-maximal effect (ED50) approximately 5 nM]. The increase of EPO mRNA levels in response to hypoxia was significantly reduced by IGF-I. Similarly to IGF-I, IGF-II (ED50 approximately 8 nM) and insulin (ED50 approximately 80 nM) also inhibited EPO formation in Hep G2 cells. IGF-I (100 pM-100 nM) stimulated the incorporation of radiolabeled alanine as a measure for total protein synthesis, 3H-labeled thymidine incorporation into DNA, and glycogen synthesis at 20 and 1% O2 in a concentration-dependent fashion. IGF-I exhibited a high affinity for the IGF-I receptor (apparent Kd approximately 3 nM). Unlabeled insulin was greater than 100-fold less potent than IGF-I in competing for 125I-IGF-I binding (apparent Kd approximately 360 nM). Conversely, insulin bound to the insulin receptor with high affinity (apparent Kd approximately 0.3 nM), whereas IGF-I was less than 1% as potent in competing for 125I-insulin binding. In summary, IGFs and insulin exert a negative control function on oxygen-regulated EPO production in Hep G2 cells. The inhibitory effect of IGFs and insulin on EPO formation appears to be mediated via the IGF-I receptor.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Physiol

Publication Date





C474 - C479


Animals, Culture Media, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Erythropoietin, Humans, Insulin, Insulin-Like Growth Factor I, Insulin-Like Growth Factor II, Liver Neoplasms, Liver Neoplasms, Experimental, Oxygen, Receptor, Insulin, Receptors, Cell Surface, Receptors, Somatomedin, Somatomedins, Tumor Cells, Cultured