Efe Pygmies of northeast Zaire have the shortest mean adult stature of any population on earth. Although various alterations in the GH/insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) axis have been suggested, the basis for short stature in the Pygmy is unknown. We previously described IGF-I unresponsiveness in a T lymphoblast cell line derived from an Efe Pygmy, and studies in five additional lines have confirmed severe IGF-I resistance in these cells. We have now performed experiments to determine the molecular basis for the IGF- I resistance in these cells. We found markedly decreased cell surface expression of IGF-I receptors with normal ligand binding affinity. The Pygmy IGF-I receptors were not autophosphorylated and did not transmit a signal in response to physiological concentrations of IGF-I. There was a substantially decreased level of IGF-I receptor messenger ribonucleic acid in the Pygmy cells with a normal messenger ribonucleic acid half-life. The nucleotide sequence of the full-length IGF receptor complementary DNA in Pygmy 1 showed no significant variation. These results indicate decreased IGF-I receptor gene transcription and IGF-I receptor signaling as the primary variation in the Pygmy cell lines. The findings point to the IGF-I receptor as the locus governing short stature in the African Pygmy and suggest that human stature may be genetically controlled by expression of the IGF-I receptor.
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