Insulin and insulin receptor (IR) kinase are found in abundance in discrete brain regions yet insulin signaling in the CNS is not understood. Because it is known that the highest brain insulin-binding affinities, insulin-receptor density, and IR kinase activity are localized to the olfactory bulb, we sought to explore the downstream substrates for IR kinase in this region of the brain to better elucidate the function of insulin signaling in the CNS. First, we demonstrate that IR is postnatally and developmentally expressed in specific lamina of the highly plastic olfactory bulb (OB). ELISA testing confirms that insulin is present in the developing and adult OB. Plasma insulin levels are elevated above that found in the OB, which perhaps suggests a differential insulin pool. Olfactory bulb insulin levels appear not to be static, however, but are elevated as much as 15-fold after a 72-h fasting period. Bath application of insulin to cultured OB neurons acutely induces outward current suppression as studied by the use of traditional whole-cell and single-channel patchclamp recording techniques. Modulation of OB neurons is restricted to current magnitude; IR kinase activation does not modulate current kinetics of inactivation or deactivation. Transient transfection of human embryonic kidney cells with cloned Kv1.3 ion channel, which carries a large proportion of the outward current in these neurons, revealed that current suppression was the result of multiple tyrosine phosphorylation of Kv1.3 channel. Y to F single-point mutations in the channel or deletion of the kinase domain in IR blocks insulin-induced modulation and phosphorylation of Kv1.3. Neuromodulation of Kv 1.3 current in OB neurons is activity dependent and is eliminated after 20 days of odor/sensory deprivation induced by unilateral naris occlusion at postnatal day 1. IR kinase but not Kv1.3 expression is downregulated in the OB ipsilateral to the occlusion, as demonstrated in cryosections of right (control) and left (sensory-deprived) OB immunolabeled with antibodies directed against these proteins, respectively. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that the hormone insulin acts as a multiply functioning molecule in the brain: IR signaling in the CNS could act as a traditional growth factor during development, be altered during energy metabolism, and simultaneously function to modulate electrical activity via phosphorylation of voltage-gated ion channels.
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