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Inhibition of mitochondrial function by metformin increases glucose uptake, glycolysis and GDF-15 release from intestinal cells

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Yang, Ming 
Darwish, Tamana 
Larraufie, Pierre 
Rimmington, Debra 
Cimino, Irene 


Abstract: Even though metformin is widely used to treat type2 diabetes, reducing glycaemia and body weight, the mechanisms of action are still elusive. Recent studies have identified the gastrointestinal tract as an important site of action. Here we used intestinal organoids to explore the effects of metformin on intestinal cell physiology. Bulk RNA-sequencing analysis identified changes in hexose metabolism pathways, particularly glycolytic genes. Metformin increased expression of Slc2a1 (GLUT1), decreased expression of Slc2a2 (GLUT2) and Slc5a1 (SGLT1) whilst increasing GLUT-dependent glucose uptake and glycolytic rate as observed by live cell imaging of genetically encoded metabolite sensors and measurement of oxygen consumption and extracellular acidification rates. Metformin caused mitochondrial dysfunction and metformin’s effects on 2D-cultures were phenocopied by treatment with rotenone and antimycin-A, including upregulation of GDF15 expression, previously linked to metformin dependent weight loss. Gene expression changes elicited by metformin were replicated in 3D apical-out organoids and distal small intestines of metformin treated mice. We conclude that metformin affects glucose uptake, glycolysis and GDF-15 secretion, likely downstream of the observed mitochondrial dysfunction. This may explain the effects of metformin on intestinal glucose utilisation and food balance.


Funder: BBSRC


Article, /631/80, /631/443, /692/163, /692/4020, /692/308, /692/4017, article

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Scientific Reports

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Nature Publishing Group UK
Wellcome Trust (106263/Z/14/Z, 106262/Z/14/Z, 100574/Z/12/Z)
MRC (MRC_MC_UU_12012/3, MRC_MC_UU_12012/5, MC_UU_00014/1)