Insulin, besides its pivotal role in energy metabolism, may also modulate neuronal processes through acting on insulin receptors (InsRs) expressed by neurons of both the central and the peripheral nervous system. Recently, the distribution and functional significance of InsRs localized on a subset of multifunctional primary sensory neurons (PSNs) have been revealed. Systematic investigations into the cellular electrophysiology, neurochemistry and morphological traits of InsR-expressing PSNs indicated complex functional interactions among specific ion channels, proteins and neuropeptides localized in these neurons. Quantitative immunohistochemical studies have revealed disparate localization of the InsRs in somatic and visceral PSNs with a dominance of InsR-positive neurons innervating visceral organs. These findings suggested that visceral spinal PSNs involved in nociceptive and inflammatory processes are more prone to the modulatory effects of insulin than somatic PSNs. Co-localization of the InsR and transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptor with vasoactive neuropeptides calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P bears of crucial importance in the pathogenesis of inflammatory pathologies affecting visceral organs, such as the pancreas and the urinary bladder. Recent studies have also revealed significant novel aspects of the neurotrophic propensities of insulin with respect to axonal growth, development and regeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry