Metformin inhibits the proliferation of canine mammary gland tumor cells through the AMPK/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in vitro

Oncol Lett. 2021 Dec;22(6):852. doi: 10.3892/ol.2021.13113. Epub 2021 Oct 26.


As an anti-diabetic drug, metformin has been demonstrated to exhibit antitumor effects. However, the mechanisms involved in decreasing tumor formation, including canine mammary gland tumors (CMGTs), are not well elucidated. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the ability of metformin to induce apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in CMGT cells, as well as identifying the pathways underlying these effects. Cell viability was assessed by Cell Counting Kit-8 analysis following treating with metformin. Subsequently, apoptosis and cell cycle progression were assessed by flow cytometry, and the expression of associated proteins was examined. Expression levels of classical AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), protein kinase B (AKT), mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) were then investigated using western blot analysis. Metformin inhibited the proliferation of CHMm cells in a concentration-dependent manner. Specifically, metformin induced cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phases, accompanied by increased expression of p21 and p27, and decreased expression of cyclin D1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 4. Marked levels of apoptosis were observed in CHMm cells alongside the activation of caspase-3 and cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. Also, the level of Bcl-2 was decreased, and that of Bax was increased. The expression of associated signaling molecules revealed that metformin markedly increased the phosphorylation of AMPK in CHMm cells, and decreased the levels of phosphorylated (p-)AKT, p-mTOR and p-4E-BP1, while Compound C reversed these changes. These findings demonstrated that metformin may be a potential therapeutic agent for CMGTs, acting via the AMPK/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway.

Keywords: apoptosis; canine mammary gland tumors; cell cycle; metformin; signal transduction.

Grants and funding

The present study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 31672617), the National Key Research Projects (grant no. 2016YFD0501008), the Initial Scientific Doctoral Research Foundation in Henan University of Animal Husbandry and Economy (grant no. 2019HNUAHEDF025), and Key projects of Henan Province Colleges and Universities (grant no. 20B230004).