It has previously been shown that longterm administration of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) or the analogue Long R3 IGF-I (LR3IGF-I) selectively stimulate growth of the gastrointestinal tract in gut resected, dexamethasone treated, and normal rats. In this study, the short-term effects of IGF-I administration on intestinal proliferation have been investigated. Female rats (110 g, five-six/group) were infused for three days with 2.5 mg/kg/day of either IGF-I or LR3IGF-I and compared with vehicle treated or untreated control rats. LR3IGF-I but not IGF-I increased body weight and wet tissue weight of the small and large intestine (+20%), compared with controls. Tissue weight responses were independent of food intake and were reflected in the histology of the tissue. In LR3IGF-I treated animals, duodenal and ileal crypts length were increased by 13 and 22%, respectively, associated with an increase in crypt cell number. No such histological changes were seen in IGF-I treated rats. Tritiated thymidine labelling indices were significantly increased after administration of either IGF-I or LR3IGF-I (up to 14%) in both the duodenum and ileum. In IGF-I treated rats, increased nuclear labelling was not associated with an increase in the crypt compartment. In contrast, LR3IGF-I induced proportional increments in thymidine labelling and crypt size, suggesting that LR3IGF-I is not only more potent than the native peptide but also induced proliferative events more rapidly. In the colon, the thymidine labelling index was low, however, a non-significant increase in the number of cells labelled with thymidine was seen. These results suggest that within a three day treatment period intestinal mitogenesis is more advanced in animals treated with LR3IGF-I. The differences in proliferative response between the two peptides may be accounted for by variations in pharmacokinetics, clearance rates, and interactions with circulating and tissue specific binding proteins.
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