Anti-diabetic drug metformin dilates retinal blood vessels through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in rats

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The aim of this study was to examine whether metformin, a biguanide anti-hyperglycemic drug, dilates retinal blood vessels in rats. Ocular fundus images were captured with an original high-resolution digital fundus camera in vivo and diameters of retinal blood vessels were measured. Both systemic blood pressure and heart rate were continuously recorded. Metformin (0.01–0.3 mg/kg/min) increased diameters of retinal blood vessels in a dose-dependent manner. This retinal vasodilator effect of metformin was abolished by compound C, an inhibitor of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, an inhibitor of nitric oxide (NO) synthase. Similar results were obtained with the AMPK activator 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-D-ribonucleoside (AICAR, 0.01–1 mg/kg/min). Neither metformin nor AICAR exerted significant effect on mean blood pressure and heart rate. However, a significant pressor response to AICAR was observed upon inhibition of NO synthase. These results suggest that metformin dilates retinal blood vessels through activation of AMPK, and NO plays an important role in the retinal vasodilator response following AMPK activation.

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