Activation of the PI3K/Akt signal transduction pathway and increased levels of insulin receptor in protein repair-deficient mice

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Protein L-isoaspartate (D-aspartate) O-methyltransferase is an enzyme that catalyses the repair of isoaspartyl damage in proteins. Mice lacking this enzyme (Pcmt1−/− mice) have a progressive increase in brain size compared with wild-type mice (Pcmt1+/+ mice), a phenotype that can be associated with alterations in the PI3K/Akt signal transduction pathway. Here we show that components of this pathway, including Akt, GSK3β and PDK-1, are more highly phosphorylated in the brains of Pcmt1−/− mice, particularly in cells of the hippocampus, in comparison with Pcmt1+/+ mice. Examination of upstream elements of this pathway in the hippocampus revealed that Pcmt1−/− mice have increased activation of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) receptor and/or insulin receptor. Western blot analysis revealed an approximate 200% increase in insulin receptor protein levels and an approximate 50% increase in IGF-I receptor protein levels in the hippocampus of Pcmt1−/− mice. Higher levels of the insulin receptor protein were also found in other regions of the adult brain and in whole tissue extracts of brain, liver, heart and testes of both juvenile and adult Pcmt1−/− mice. There were no significant differences in plasma insulin levels for adult Pcmt1−/− mice during glucose tolerance tests. However, they did show higher peak levels of blood glucose, suggesting a mild impairment in glucose tolerance. We propose that Pcmt1−/− mice have altered regulation of the insulin pathway, possibly as a compensatory response to altered glucose uptake or metabolism or as an adaptive response to a general accumulation of isoaspartyl protein damage in the brain and other tissues.

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