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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Expression and function of the insulin receptor substrate proteins in cancer

Katerina Mardilovich, Shannon L Pankratz and Leslie M Shaw*

Author Affiliations

Department of Cancer Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA

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Cell Communication and Signaling 2009, 7:14  doi:10.1186/1478-811X-7-14

Published: 17 June 2009

Abstract

The Insulin Receptor Substrate (IRS) proteins are cytoplasmic adaptor proteins that function as essential signaling intermediates downstream of activated cell surface receptors, many of which have been implicated in cancer. The IRS proteins do not contain any intrinsic kinase activity, but rather serve as scaffolds to organize signaling complexes and initiate intracellular signaling pathways. As common intermediates of multiple receptors that can influence tumor progression, the IRS proteins are positioned to play a pivotal role in regulating the response of tumor cells to many different microenvironmental stimuli. Limited studies on IRS expression in human tumors and studies on IRS function in human tumor cell lines and in mouse models have provided clues to the potential function of these adaptor proteins in human cancer. A general theme arises from these studies; IRS-1 and IRS-4 are most often associated with tumor growth and proliferation and IRS-2 is most often associated with tumor motility and invasion. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms by which IRS expression and function are regulated and how the IRS proteins contribute to tumor initiation and progression.