Augmentation of the Synthesis of Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor Type-1 by Precursors of Insulin: A Potential Risk Factor for Vascular Disease

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Both vascular disease and elevated concentrations in plasma of plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1 (PAI-1) are prominent in patients with non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). We and others have hypothesized that the increased PAI-1 may contribute to acceleration of atherosclerosis in this condition and in other states characterized by insulin resistance as well. Surprisingly, however, elevations of PAI-1 decrease when type II diabetic patients are treated with exogenous insulin, as do circulating concentrations of the precursor of insulin, proinsulin, in plasma. Accordingly, the increased PAI-1 in patients with NIDDM may reflect effects of precursors of insulin rather than or in addition to those of insulin itself. To assess this possibility directly, this study was performed to identify potential direct effects of proinsulin and proinsulin split products on synthesis of PAI-1 in liver cells, thought to be the major source of circulating PAI-1 in vivo.

Methods and Results

Hep G2 cells (highly differentiated human hepatoma cells) were exposed to human proinsulin, des(31,32)proinsulin and des(64,65)proinsulin (split products of proinsulin), or C-peptide. Accumulation of PAI-1 in conditioned media increased in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion in response to the two des-intermediates [3.3-fold with des(31,32)proinsulin and 4.5-fold with des(64,65)proinsulin]. C-peptide elicited no increase. Stimulation was transduced at least in part by the insulin receptor as shown by inhibition of stimulation by insulin receptor antibodies, mediated at the level of PAI-1 gene expression as shown by the 2.2- to 2.9-fold increases in steady-state concentrations of PAI-1 mRNA, and indicative of newly synthesized protein as shown by results in metabolic labeling experiments.


Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that precursors of insulin (proinsulin and proinsulin split products), known to be present in relatively high concentrations in plasma in patients with NIDDM and conditions characterized by insulin resistance, may directly stimulate PAI-1 synthesis, thereby attenuating fibrinolysis and accelerating atherogenesis.

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