Insulin binds specifically to basolateral renal cortical membranes and modifies tubular electrolyte transport, but the target sites of this hormone in the nephron have not been identified. Using a microassay that permits measurement of hormone binding in discrete tubule segments we have determined the binding sites of 125I-insulin along the rabbit nephron. Assays were performed under conditions that minimize insulin degradation, and specific binding was measured as the difference between 125I-insulin bound in the presence or absence of excess (10(-5) M) unlabeled hormone. Insulin monoiodinated in position A14 was used in all assays. Specific insulin binding (attomol . cm-1 +/- SE) was highest in the distal convoluted tubule (180.5 +/- 15.0) and medullary thick ascending limb of Henle's loop (132.9 +/- 14.6), followed by the proximal convoluted and straight tubule. When expressed per milligram protein, insulin binding capacity was highest along the entire thick ascending limb (medullary and cortical portions) and the distal convoluted tubule, i.e., the "diluting segment" (congruent to 10(-13) mol . mg protein-1), and was lower (congruent to 4 X 10(-14) mol . mg protein-1), and remarkably similar, in all other nephron segments. Binding specificity was verified in competition studies with unlabeled insulin, insulin analogues (proinsulin and desoctapeptide insulin), and unrelated hormones (glucagon, 1-34 parathyroid hormone, prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone). In addition, serum containing antiinsulin receptor antibody from two patients with type B insulin resistance syndrome markedly inhibited insulin binding to isolated tubules. Whether calculated per unit tubule length or protein content, insulin binding is highest in the thick ascending limb and the distal convoluted tubule, the same nephron sites where a regulatory role in sodium transport has been postulated for this hormone.
R Nakamura, D S Emmanouel, A I Katz