New aspects of an old drug: metformin as a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) enhancer and sensitiser


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Abstract

The two major deficits in type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and impaired beta cell function, are often treated with metformin and incretin-based drugs, respectively. However, there may be unappreciated benefits of this combination of therapies. In this issue of Diabetologia, Maida et al. (doi:10.1007/s00125–010–1937-z) report that metformin acutely increases plasma levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) in mice. Moreover, they show that metformin enhances the expression of the genes encoding the receptors for both GLP-1 and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) in mouse islets and also increases the effects of GIP and GLP-1 on insulin secretion from beta cells. Interestingly, these incretin-sensitising effects of metformin appear to be mediated by a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α-dependent pathway, as opposed to the more commonly ascribed pathway of metformin action involving AMP-activated protein kinase. These provocative findings by Maida et al. extend our understanding of the mechanism of action of metformin and provide further insights into the benefits of combining metformin with incretin-based drugs to combat diabetes.

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