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Scientific Articles

Effect of a long-term treatment with metformin in dystrophic mdx mice: A reconsideration of its potential clinical interest in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

key information

source: Biochemical Pharmacology

year: 2018

authors: Paola Mantuanoa, Francesca Sanaricaa, Elena Contea, Maria Grazia Morgeseb, Roberta Francesca Capogrossoa, Anna Cozzolia, Adriano Fonzinoa, Angelo Quarantac, Jean-Francois Rollandd, Michela De Bellisa, Giulia Maria Camerinoa, Luigia Trabaceb, Annamaria De Luca


The pharmacological stimulation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) via metabolic enhancers has been proposed as potential therapeutic strategy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Metformin, a widely-prescribed anti-hyperglycemic drug which activates AMPK via mitochondrial respiratory chain, has been recently tested in DMD patients in synergy with nitric oxide (NO)-precursors, with encouraging results. However, preclinical data supporting the use of metformin in DMD are still poor, and its actions on skeletal muscle appear controversial. Therefore, we investigated the effects of a long-term treatment with metformin (200 mg/kg/day in drinking water, for 20 weeks) in the exercised mdx mouse model, characterized by a severe mechanical-metabolic maladaptation.

Metformin significantly ameliorated histopathology in mdx gastrocnemius muscle, in parallel reducing TGF-β1 with a recovery score (r.s) of 106%; this was accompanied by a decreased plasma matrix-metalloproteinase-9 (r.s. 43%). In addition, metformin significantly increased mdx diaphragm twitch and tetanic tension ex vivo (r.s. 44% and 36%, respectively), in spite of minor effects on in vivo weakness. However, no clear protective actions on dystrophic muscle metabolism were observed, as shown by the poor metformin effect on AMPK activation measured by western blot, on the expression of mechanical-metabolic response genes analyzed by qPCR, and by the lack of fast-to-slow fiber-type-shift assessed by SDH staining in tibialis anterior muscle. Similar results were obtained in the milder phenotype of sedentary mdx mice. The lack of metabolic effects could be, at least partly, due to metformin inability to increase low mdx muscle levels of l-arginine, l-citrulline and taurine, found by HPLC. Our findings encourage to explore alternative, metabolism-independent mechanisms of action to differently repurpose metformin in DMD, supporting its therapeutic combination with NO-sources.

organization: University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy; University of Foggia, Italy; Openzone Science Park, Italy

DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2018.04.022

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