Mitochondrial metabolism and type-2 diabetes: a specific target of metformin

Diabetes Metab. 2003 Sep;29(4 Pt 2):6S88-94. doi: 10.1016/s1262-3636(03)72792-x.


Several links relate mitochondrial metabolism and type 2 diabetes or chronic hyperglycaemia. Among them, ATP synthesis by oxidative phosphorylation and cellular energy metabolism (ATP/ADP ratio), redox status and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, membrane potential and substrate transport across the mitochondrial membrane are involved at various steps of the very complex network of glucose metabolism. Recently, the following findings (1) mitochondrial ROS production is central in the signalling pathway of harmful effects of hyperglycaemia, (2) AMPK activation is a major regulator of both glucose and lipid metabolism connected with cellular energy status, (3) hyperglycaemia by inhibiting glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) by a cAMP mechanism plays a crucial role in NADPH/NADP ratio and thus in the pro-oxidant/anti-oxidant cellular status, have deeply changed our view of diabetes and related complications. It has been reported that metformin has many different cellular effects according to the experimental models and/or conditions. However, recent important findings may explain its unique efficacy in the treatment of hyperglycaemia- or insulin-resistance related complications. Metformin is a mild inhibitor of respiratory chain complex 1; it activates AMPK in several models, apparently independently of changes in the AMP-to-ATP ratio; it activates G6PDH in a model of high-fat related insulin resistance; and it has antioxidant properties by a mechanism (s), which is (are) not completely elucidated as yet. Although it is clear that metformin has non-mitochondrial effects, since it affects erythrocyte metabolism, the mitochondrial effects of metformin are probably crucial in explaining the various properties of this drug.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gerbillinae
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Metformin
  • Glucose