IGF Binding Protein-3 (IGFBP-3), the major IGF carrier in the blood, undergoes limited proteolysis which reduces its affinity for IGFs, thus facilitating dissociation. The functional effects of this at the cellular level were studied by comparing two serum pools, one from healthy adults, one from women during late pregnancy when IGFBP-3 proteolysis is increased. Sera were mixed to yield identical IGF-I and IGF-II concentrations in the two pools. Western ligand and immunoblotting gave the characteristic IGFBP patterns for the two types of serum. Both pools dose-dependently stimulated DNA synthesis in cultured chick embryo fibroblasts. Stimulation by pregnancy serum was twice that by normal serum at 0.05-0.2% concentrations (P < 0.001). In the presence of excess monoclonal anti-IGF-I and -II antibodies, stimulation by both (0.1-0.2%) pools was 70-80% reduced and residual stimulation was similar. Addition of recombinant human (rh) IGFBP-3 dose-dependently depressed both pools' activity, more so for normal serum at 25 and 50 ng/ml, equally for each at 100 ng/ml. At the latter concentration, slight proteolysis of the rhIGFBP-3 was detectable in the presence of 0.2% pregnancy serum, but at 25 ng/ml, proteolysis was absent. These results suggest that IGFs are released more readily from pregnancy serum, accounting for the weaker inhibitory effect of low rhIGFBP-3 concentrations. For identical IGF concentrations, pregnancy serum's greater biological activity therefore reflects greater IGF availability to the cells. This study demonstrates the functional consequences at cellular level of serum IGFBP-3 proteolysis, underlining its significance in regulating serum IGF bioavailability.
C Blat, J Villaudy, M Binoux