Insulin Receptor Activation with Transmembrane Domain Ligands [Metabolism]

May 27th, 2014 by Lee, J., Miyazaki, M., Romeo, G. R., Shoelson, S. E.

Complementary surfaces are buried when peptide hormones, growth factors or cytokines bind and activate cellular receptors. While these extended surfaces provide high affinity and specificity to the interactions, they also present great challenges to the design of small molecules that might either mimic or antagonize the process. We show that the insulin receptor (IR) and downstream signals can be activated by targeting a site outside of its ligand-binding domain. A 24-residue peptide having the IR transmembrane (TM) domain sequence activates IR, but not related growth factor receptors, through specific interactions with the receptor TM domain. Like insulin-dependent activation, IR-TM requires that IR have a competent ATP-binding site and kinase activation loop. IR-TM also activates mutated receptors from patients with severe insulin resistance which do not respond to insulin. These results show that IR can be activated through a pathway that bypasses its canonical ligand-binding domain.