Pre-treatment with metformin activates Nrf2 antioxidant pathways and inhibits inflammatory responses through induction of AMPK after transient global cerebral ischemia

Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Jun;30(3):747-54. doi: 10.1007/s11011-014-9632-2. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Global cerebral ischemia arises in patients who have a variety of clinical conditions including cardiac arrest, shock and asphyxia. In spite of advances in understanding of the brain ischemia and stroke etiology, therapeutic approaches to improve ischemic injury still remain limited. It has been established that metformin can attenuate cell death in cerebral ischemia. One of the main functions of metformin is proposed to be conducted via AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-dependent pathway in the experimental cerebral ischemia model. It is also established that metformin can suppress inflammation and activate Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) pathways in neurons. In the current study, the role of metformin in regulating inflammatory and antioxidant pathways in the global cerebral ischemia was investigated. Our results indicated that pretreatment of rats by metformin attenuated cellular levels of nuclear factor-κB, Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha and Cyclooxygenase-2 which are considered as three important proteins involved in the inflammation pathway. Pretreatment by metformin increased the level of Nrf2 and heme oxygenase-1 in the hippocampus of ischemic rats compared with untreated ischemic group. Moreover, pretreatment by metformin enhanced the level of glutathione and catalase activities compared with them in ischemic group. Such protective changes detected by metformin pretreatment were reversed by injecting compound c, an AMPK inhibitor. These findings suggested that metformin might protect cells through modulating inflammatory and antioxidant pathways via induction of AMPK. However, more experimental and clinical trial studies regarding neuroprotective potential of metformin and the involved mechanisms, especially in the context of cerebral ischemic injuries, are necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Enzyme Induction / physiology
  • Inflammation Mediators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / metabolism*
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Metformin / administration & dosage*
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Antioxidants
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Nfe2l2 protein, rat
  • Metformin
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases