Metformin inhibits adenosine 5'-monophosphate-activated kinase activation and prevents increases in neuropeptide Y expression in cultured hypothalamic neurons

Endocrinology. 2007 Feb;148(2):507-11. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-1237. Epub 2006 Nov 9.


The oral antidiabetic agent metformin acts at least partially via an activation of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) in liver and muscle cells. It has appeared recently that hypothalamic AMPK is a key regulator of feeding in mammals. Because metformin also exhibits anorectic effects in animal models as well as in humans, we hypothesized that AMPK may be a target of metformin in hypothalamic neurons. In this study, we show that, in primary cultures of rat hypothalamic neurons, low glucose levels stimulate the phosphorylation of AMPK, thus increasing neuropeptide Y (NPY) gene expression. The addition of metformin in low glucose conditions was found to block AMPK phosphorylation. Consistently, the stimulation of NPY observed in low glucose conditions was also inhibited by the drug. Proopiomelanocortin gene expression measured in parallel was inhibited under low glucose conditions, but in contrast to NPY, it was not dependent upon AMPK and not affected by metformin. Taken together, our data demonstrate that metformin can inhibit AMPK activity in hypothalamic neurons, thus modulating the expression of the orexigenic peptide NPY. These results provide, for the first time, a potential mechanism of action for the anorectic effects of metformin, a widely used drug that could represent a valuable adjunct to novel therapies aimed at modulating central feeding pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptide Y / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Neuropeptide Y / genetics
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / genetics
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Rats


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Metformin
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Glucose