Although survival-promoting effects of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) during neurogenesis are well characterized, mitogenic effects remain less well substantiated. Here, we characterize cell cycle regulators and signaling pathways underlying IGF-1 effects on embryonic cortical precursor proliferation in vitro and in vivo. In vitro, IGF-1 stimulated cell cycle progression and increased cell number without promoting cell survival. IGF-1 induced rapid increases in cyclin D1 and D3 protein levels at 4 h and cyclin E at 8 h. Moreover, p27KIP1 and p57KIP2 expression were reduced, suggesting downregulation of negative regulators contributes to mitogenesis. Furthermore, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway specifically underlies IGF-1 activity, because blocking this pathway, but not MEK (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase)/ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase), prevented mitogenesis. To determine whether mechanisms defined in culture relate to corticogenesis in vivo, we performed transuterine intracerebroventricular injections. Whereas blockade of endogenous factor with anti-IGF-1 antibody decreased DNA synthesis, IGF-1 injection stimulated DNA synthesis and increased the number of S-phase cells in the ventricular zone. IGF-1 treatment increased phospho-Akt fourfold at 30 min, cyclins D1 and E by 6 h, and decreased p27KIP1 and p57KIP2 expression. Moreover, blockade of the PI3K/Akt pathway in vivo decreased DNA synthesis and cyclin E, increased p27KIP1 and p57KIP2 expression, and prevented IGF-1-induced cyclin EmRNAupregulation. Finally, IGF-1 injection in embryos increased postnatal day 10 brain DNA content by 28%, suggesting a role for IGF-1 in brain growth control. These results demonstrate a mitogenic role for IGF-1 that tightly controls both positive and negative cell cycle regulators, and indicate that the PI3K/Akt pathway mediates IGF-1 mitogenic signaling during corticogenesis.
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