For a few years we have been investigating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) as a target for drug therapy of GH-secreting pituitary adenomas. Aim of this study was to investigate the direct effects of metformin, which causes AMPK activation in different cell types, on rat pituitary adenoma cell growth and on related cell signalling pathways. Our results suggest that metformin can exert a growth-inhibitory activity in rat pituitary tumor cells mediated by AMPK activation, although multiple mechanisms are most likely involved. Membrane proteins, including growth factor receptors, are valuable targets of AMPK. The inhibition of the mTOR-p70S6 kinase signalling pathway plays a role in the suppressive effect of metformin on pituitary tumor cell growth. Metformin did not affect the MTT reduction activity in energetic stress conditions. Finally, metformin was still able to induce AMPK activation and to inhibit cell growth in cells treated with forskolin and in transfected cells overexpressing GHRH-receptor and treated with GHRH. Hence, adenylyl cyclase over-activation does not account for the lack of response of some human pituitary tumors to AMPK-activating compounds in vitro.
Keywords: AMP-activated protein kinase; AMPK substrates; GHRH; Metformin; S6 ribosomal protein.
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