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Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 May;16(1):85-92. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.03.020. Epub 2013 Apr 1.

Metformin downregulates Th17 cells differentiation and attenuates murine autoimmune arthritis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, South Korea.



This study was undertaken to determine whether metformin has anti-inflammatory effects in the collagen antibody-induced arthritis (CAIA) murine model. The effect of metformin on Th17 cell differentiation was also investigated.


CAIA mice were treated with 100 and 150 mg/kg i.p. metformin (low- and high-dose groups, respectively). Arthritis activity and histological joint destruction were studied. Flow cytometry was used to (i) determine RORγt-expressing CD4+ percentages in draining axillary lymph nodes (ALNs) from metformin-treated and untreated mice with CAIA, (ii) determine Th17 percentages in splenic CD4+ T cells cultured ex vivo for 3 days in Th17-differentiation-inducing conditions, and (iii) determine the percentages of RORγt+CD4+ T cells when normal splenic T cells from DBA/1 mice were cultured in Th17-differentiation-inducing conditions together with various metformin doses. Western blot analysis was used to assess the intracellular signaling of the metformin-treated splenocytes.


Metformin attenuated both arthritis scores and bone destruction in CAIA mice, decreased the serum levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α and IL-1, and reduced the number of RORγt+CD4+ T cells in the ALNs. Splenocytes from metformin-treated CAIA mice differentiated less readily into Th17 cells upon ex vivo stimulation. Metformin treatment of normal cells cultured in Th17-differentiation-inducing conditions decreased the number of RORγt-expressing CD4+ cells in a dose-dependent manner and downregulated STAT3 phosphorylation via the AMPK pathway.


Metformin had an anti-inflammatory effect on murine autoimmune arthritis due to the inhibition of Th17 cell differentiation. Metformin may have a possible therapeutic value for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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