Degradation products of insulin generated by hepatocytes and by insulin protease

W. C. Duckworth, F. G. Hamel, D. E. Peavy, J. J. Liepnieks, M. P. Ryan, M. A. Hermodson, B. H. Frank

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72 Scopus citations


The enzymatic mechanisms for insulin breakdown by hepatocytes have not been established, nor have the degradation products been identified. Several lines of evidence have suggested that the enzyme insulin protease is involved in insulin degradation by hepatocytes. To identify the products of insulin generated by insulin protease and to compare them with those produced by hepatocytes, we have incubated insulin specifically iodinated at either the B-16 or the B-26 tyrosines with insulin protease and with isolated hepatocytes, separated the products on high performance of liquid chromatography (HPLC), and identified the B-chain cleavages. Insulin-sized products were obtained by Sephadex G-50 filtration. These insulin-sized products were injected on reverse-phase HPLC, and the peaks of radioactivity were identified. The product patterns generated by the enzyme and by hepatocytes were essentially identical with both isomers. The products were also sulfitolized to prepare the S-sulfonate derivatives of the B-chain and B-chain peptides. Again, the patterns on HPLC generated by the enzyme and by hepatocytes with both isomers were identical. Each of the original product peaks was also sulfitolized and injected separately on HPLC to relate B-chain peptides with product peaks. Again, the peptide compositions of the product peaks for both enzyme and hepatocytes were essentially identical. To identify the cleavage sites in the B-chain of insulin produced by insulin protease, the peptides from the degradation of [125I]iodo(B-26)insulin were purified and submitted to automated Edman degradation to identify the cycle in which radioactivity appeared. Seven peptides with cleavage on the amino side of the B26 residue were identified, and the cleavage sites were determined. Cleavages were found between B-9 and B-10 (Ser-His), B-10 and B-11 (His-Leu), B-14 and B-15 (Ala-Leu), B-13 and B-14 (Glu-Ala), B-16 and B-17 (Tyr-Leu), B-24 and B-25 (Phe-Phe), and B-25 and B-26 (Phe-Tyr). Peptides were also isolated from [125I]iodoinsulin incubated with isolated hepatocytes, and the cleavage sites in several of these were determined. These agreed exactly with the cleavage sites identified generated by the enzyme. The major peptides generated by the degradation of [125I]iodo(B-16)insulin were also isolated and sequenced, again showing identical cleavage sites. These studies have therefore identified the cleavage sites in the B-chain produced by insulin degradation by insulin protease and by isolated hepatocytes. The similarity of the HPLC patterns and the identical cleavage sites produced strongly suggest that the enzyme insulin protease is a major mechanism for insulin degradation by hepatocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1826-1833
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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