Purpose: Clinical and experimental investigations demonstrated that metformin, a widely used anti-diabetic drug, exhibits cardioprotective properties against myocardial infarction. Interestingly, metformin was previously shown to increase the expression of PGC-1α a key controller of energy metabolism in skeletal muscle, which is down-regulated in diabetic conditions. We hypothesized that chronic treatment with metformin could protect the aged, diabetic heart against ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) by up-regulating PGC-1α and improving the impaired functionality of diabetic mitochondria.
Methods: Following 4 weeks of metformin (300 mg/kg) administered in the drinking water, 12 month-old diabetic Goto Kakizaki and non-diabetic Wistar rat hearts were assigned for infarct measurement following 35 min ischemia and 60 min reperfusion or for electron microscopy (EM) and Western blotting (WB) investigations.
Results: Metformin elicited a cardioprotective effect in both non-diabetic and diabetic hearts. In contrast with the diabetic non-treated hearts, the diabetic hearts treated with metformin showed more organized and elongated mitochondria and demonstrated a significant increase in phosphorylated AMPK and in PGC-1α expression.
Conclusions: In summary these results show for the first time that chronic metformin treatment augments myocardial resistance to ischemia-reperfusion injury, by an alternative mechanism in addition to the lowering of blood glucose. This consisted of a positive effect on mitochondrial structure possibly via a pathway involving AMPK activation and PGC-1α. Thus, metformin prescribed chronically to patients may lead to a basal state of cardioprotection thereby potentially limiting the occurrence of myocardial damage by cardiovascular events.