Metformin alleviates hepatosteatosis by restoring SIRT1-mediated autophagy induction via an AMP-activated protein kinase-independent pathway.

PMID 25484077


Metformin activates both PRKA and SIRT1. Furthermore, autophagy is induced by either the PRKA-MTOR-ULK1 or SIRT1-FOXO signaling pathways. We aimed to elucidate the mechanism by which metformin alleviates hepatosteatosis by examining the molecular interplay between SIRT1, PRKA, and autophagy. ob/ob mice were divided into 3 groups: one with ad libitum feeding of a standard chow diet, one with 300 mg/kg intraperitoneal metformin injections, and one with 3 g/d caloric restriction (CR) for a period of 4 wk. Primary hepatocytes or HepG2 cells were treated with oleic acid (OA) plus high glucose in the absence or presence of metformin. Both CR and metformin significantly improved body weight and glucose homeostasis, along with hepatic steatosis, in ob/ob mice. Furthermore, CR and metformin both upregulated SIRT1 expression and also stimulated autophagy induction and flux in vivo. Metformin also prevented OA with high glucose-induced suppression of both SIRT1 expression and SIRT1-dependent activation of autophagy machinery, thereby alleviating intracellular lipid accumulation in vitro. Interestingly, metformin treatment upregulated SIRT1 expression and activated PRKA even after siRNA-mediated knockdown of PRKAA1/2 and SIRT1, respectively. Taken together, these results suggest that metformin alleviates hepatic steatosis through PRKA-independent, SIRT1-mediated effects on the autophagy machinery.