Insulin‐like growth factor‐I is a polypeptide hormone structurally related to insulin. It is a potent mitogen that promotes growth and differentiation in many tissues. A role for insulin‐like growth factor‐I in wound healing is suggested by its rapid rise in levels and increased insulin‐like growth factor‐I messenger RNA expression in tissue after wounding. We designed our study to characterize possible changes in insulin‐like growth factor‐I receptor binding during wound healing. Surgical wounds created on the abdominal skin of anesthetized New Zealand White rabbits were either left open or closed primarily. Size‐ and weight‐matched specimens were harvested at wounding time (day 0), and at 1, 4, 7, 38, and 50 days after wounding. Preliminary experiments showed that the greatest difference in specific binding occurred between day 0 and day 7. 125I‐insulin‐like growth factor‐I binding studies were performed on frozen tissue specimens and autoradiography was performed and analyzed by computerized densitometry. Scatchard analysis of the binding data showed a single class of insulin‐like growth factor‐I binding sites whose affinity that is, binding constant (Kd = 0.6 × 10−9) did not change significantly over time; in contrast there was a threefold increase in the number of receptors per milligram tissue in day 7 wound tissue versus normal skin harvested at day 0 (17.3 ± 2.6 × 1010 versus 4.7 ± 2.5 × 1010, respectively, p < 0.05). Binding inhibition experiments showed that 125I‐insulin‐like growth factor‐I binding was most specific to insulin‐like growth factor‐I with insulin‐like growth factor‐I > insulin‐like growth factor‐II > insulin. This increase in binding was due to upregulation of insulin‐like growth factor‐I receptors rather than increased levels of insulin‐like growth factor‐I binding protein as less than 20% of the threefold increase in binding at day 7 could be attributed to insulin‐like growth factor‐I binding protein in membrane‐free extracts. The presence of specific, high‐affinity insulin‐like growth factor‐I receptors in the skin and their upregulation at day 7 after wounding suggest that insulin‐like growth factor‐I plays an important role during wound healing.
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