The IGF system in patients with inflammatory bowel disease treated with prednisolone or infliximab: Potential role of the stanniocalcin-2 / PAPP-A / IGFBP-4 axis

Rikke Hjortebjerg*, Karen L. Thomsen, Jørgen Agnholt, Jan Frystyk

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) present with reduced serum insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). Anti-inflammatory treatment with prednisolone or infliximab ameliorates symptoms and increases circulating IGF-I, but prednisolone induces catabolism, whereas infliximab may promote protein synthesis. Recently, stanniocalcin-2 (STC2) was discovered as a novel inhibitor of the enzyme pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), which modulates IGF-I activity. PAPP-A can cleave IGF binding protein-4 (IGFBP-4), upon which IGF-I is liberated. We hypothesized that prednisolone and infliximab exert different effects on levels of STC2, PAPP-A, and IGFBP-4, thereby explaining the distinct metabolic effects of prednisolone and infliximab. Methods: Thirty-eight patients with active IBD treated with either prednisolone (n = 17) or infliximab (n = 21) were examined before and after 7 days of treatment. Circulating levels of IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-3, PAPP-A, and STC2 were measured by immunoassays. Intact IGFBP-4 and two IGFBP-4 fragments were determined by a novel immunoassay. Bioactive IGF was assessed by cell-based IGF receptor activation assay. Concentrations of IGFBP-4, PAPP-A, and STC2 on day 0 and 7 were compared to healthy control subjects. Results: Following seven days of prednisolone treatment, total and bioactive IGF-I were increased (p < 0.001 and p < 0.05, respectively). Upon infliximab treatment, total IGF-I levels were augmented (p < 0.05), yet IGF bioactivity remained unaltered. Intact IGFBP-4 and the two IGFBP-4 fragments generated upon cleavage by PAPP-A were all decreased following treatment with either prednisolone or infliximab (all p < 0.05). PAPP-A levels were only increased by infliximab (p = 0.005), whereas the inhibitor STC2 did not respond to any of the treatments. Conclusion: IGF-I and IGFBP-4 concentrations were markedly altered in patients with IBD and near-normalized with disease remission following treatment with prednisolone or infliximab. Thus, IGFBP-4 may modulate IGF bioavailability in IBD. The effect of immunosuppression did not appear to extend beyond the regulation of IGF and IGFBP-4, as neither PAPP-A nor STC2 were discernibly affected. Trial registration: NCT00955123. Date of registration: August 7, 2009 (retrospectively registered).

Original languageEnglish
Article number83
JournalBMC Gastroenterology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 3. Jun 2019


  • IGF binding protein-4
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infliximab
  • Prednisolone
  • Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-a
  • Stanniocalcin-2


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