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Diabetes. 2004 Apr;53(4):1052-9.

Thiazolidinediones, like metformin, inhibit respiratory complex I: a common mechanism contributing to their antidiabetic actions?

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Department of Medicine III, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Metformin and thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are believed to exert their antidiabetic effects via different mechanisms. As evidence suggests that both impair cell respiration in vitro, this study compared their effects on mitochondrial functions. The activity of complex I of the respiratory chain, which is known to be affected by metformin, was measured in tissue homogenates that contained disrupted mitochondria. In homogenates of skeletal muscle, metformin and TZDs reduced the activity of complex I (30 mmol/l metformin, -15 +/- 2%; 100 micromol/l rosiglitazone, -54 +/- 7; and 100 micromol/l pioglitazone, -12 +/- 4; P < 0.05 each). Inhibition of complex I was confirmed by reduced state 3 respiration of isolated mitochondria consuming glutamate + malate as substrates for complex I (30 mmol/l metformin, -77 +/- 1%; 100 micromol/l rosiglitazone, -24 +/- 4; and 100 micromol/l pioglitazone, -18 +/- 5; P < 0.05 each), whereas respiration with succinate feeding into complex II was unaffected. In line with inhibition of complex I, 24-h exposure of isolated rat soleus muscle to metformin or TZDs reduced cell respiration and increased anaerobic glycolysis (glucose oxidation: 270 micromol/l metformin, -30 +/- 9%; 9 micromol/l rosiglitazone, -25 +/- 8; and 9 micromol/l pioglitazone, -45 +/- 3; lactate release: 270 micromol/l metformin, +84 +/- 12; 9 micromol/l rosiglitazone, +38 +/- 6; and 9 micromol/l pioglitazone, +64 +/- 11; P < 0.05 each). As both metformin and TZDs inhibit complex I activity and cell respiration in vitro, similar mitochondrial actions could contribute to their antidiabetic effects.

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