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Dis Model Mech. 2012 Mar;5(2):259-69. doi: 10.1242/dmm.008110. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Metformin differentially activates ER stress signaling pathways without inducing apoptosis.

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Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Intensive Care Medicine, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


Endoplasmic reticulum stress signaling (ERSS) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetes and heart disease. The latter is a common comorbidity of diabetes and worsens patient outcome. Results from clinical studies suggest beneficial effects of metformin - a widely used oral drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes - on the heart of diabetic patients with heart failure. We therefore analyzed the effect of metformin on ERSS in primary rat cardiomyocytes. We found that metformin activates the PERK-ATF4 but not the ATF6 or IRE1-XBP1 branch in ERSS and leads to a strong upregulation of CHOP mRNA and protein. Surprisingly, long-term induction of CHOP by metformin is not accompanied by apoptosis even though CHOP is regarded to be a mediator of ER-stress-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, metformin induces distinct ER stress pathways in cardiomyocytes and our results indicate that CHOP is not necessarily a mediator of apoptosis. Metformin might exert its cardioprotective effect through selective activation of ERSS pathways in the cardiomyocyte.

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