Cholinergic and metabolic effects of metformin in mouse brain

Brain Res Bull. 2021 May;170:211-217. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2021.02.018. Epub 2021 Feb 19.


Metformin is widely used as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, but central effects of metformin have received little attention. When metformin (200 mg/kg i.p.) was administered to C57Bl6 mice, metformin concentration in cerebrospinal fluid peaked at 29 μM after 30 min but dropped quickly and was low at 90 min. In mouse hypothalamus sampled by microdialysis, systemically administered metformin caused minor and transient increases of acetylcholine, glucose and lactate while choline levels decreased. When metformin (0.2-10 mM) was locally infused via retrodialysis, there was a short-lasting increase of acetylcholine in the hypothalamus. Extracellular lactate levels in hypothalamus showed a massive increase upon metformin infusion while glucose levels decreased. In isolated mitochondria of mouse brain, metformin inhibited oxygen consumption and the activity of complex I. Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration likely explains lactate formation in the brain during metformin infusion which may cause lactic acidosis during metformin intoxication. The changes of cholinergic activity in the hypothalamus may be associated with appetite suppression observed during metformin treatment.

Keywords: Blood-brain barrier; Glucose; Hypothalamus; Lactate; Metformin; Microdialysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Acidosis, Lactic / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Lactic Acid
  • Metformin
  • Glucose
  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine