Polypeptide hormones such as insulin must cross the vascular barrier to mediate their biologic actions. A substantial vascular barrier may be encountered in muscle and fat tissues, which are supplied by continuous capillaries lined with tightly joined endothelial cells. Endothelial cells have previously been shown to bind and release insulin with minimal degradation. Because 125I-labeled insulin transport was demonstrated to be receptor-mediated, factors regulating insulin-receptor binding may also affect the insulin transport rate across the vascular barrier. Since sulfonylureas may have a glucose-lowering action by altering insulin receptors, the effects of tolazamide and glyburide on vascular endothelial cell insulin receptors were evaluated. Exposure of aortic endothelial cells in culture to insulin at 37°C resulted in a 75 percent loss of receptors. Five to seven days of tolazamide exposure led to a 35 percent time-dependent increase in insulin binding. More strikingly, tolazamide altered the dose-receptor to insulin-induced down-regulation. Cells down-regulated with insulin (10 ng/ml) showed a 100 percent increase in binding in the presence of tolazamide; a dose-dependent effect occurred at the 75 to 200 μg/ml dosage level. Scatchard analysis indicated that the increase in 125I-labeled insulin binding was due to an increase in receptor number. When insulin receptors were identified with 125I-labeled insulin, tolazamide-treated cells clearly showed an increase of a band at Mr=145 K, the alpha subunit of the receptor. Tolazamide may thus help normalize glucose in diabetes by preventing receptor down-regulation in endothelial cells.
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