Metformin is the first-line option for treating newly diagnosed diabetic patients and also involved in other pharmacological actions, including antitumor effect, anti-aging effect, polycystic ovarian syndrome prevention, cardiovascular action, and neuroprotective effect, etc. However, the mechanisms of metformin actions were not fully illuminated. Recently, increasing researches showed that autophagy is a vital medium of metformin playing pharmacological actions. Nevertheless, results on the effects of metformin on autophagy were inconsistent. Apart from few clinical evidences, more data focused on kinds of no-clinical models. First, many studies showed that metformin could induce autophagy via a number of signaling pathways, including AMPK-related signaling pathways (e.g. AMPK/mTOR, AMPK/CEBPD, MiTF/TFE, AMPK/ULK1, and AMPK/miR-221), Redd1/mTOR, STAT, SIRT, Na+/H+ exchangers, MAPK/ERK, PK2/PKR/AKT/ GSK3β, and TRIB3. Secondly, some signaling pathways were involved in the process of metformin inhibiting autophagy, such as AMPK-related signaling pathways (AMPK/NF-κB and other undetermined AMPK-related signaling pathways), Hedgehog, miR-570-3p, miR-142-3p, and MiR-3127-5p. Thirdly, two types of signaling pathways including PI3K/AKT/mTOR and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress could bidirectionally impact the effectiveness of metformin on autophagy. Finally, multiple signal pathways were reviewed collectively in terms of affecting the effectiveness of metformin on autophagy. The pharmacological effects of metformin combining its actions on autophagy were also discussed. It would help better apply metformin to treat diseases in term of mediating autophagy.
Keywords: AMPK; Autophagy; Diseases; Metformin; mTOR.
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