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Reprod Sci. 2015 Sep;22(9):1162-70. doi: 10.1177/1933719115590664. Epub 2015 Jun 9.

Metformin Suppresses Prostaglandin E2-Induced Cytochrome P450 Aromatase Gene Expression and Activity via Stimulation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Human Endometriotic Stromal Cells.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, China.
Department of Central Laboratory, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, China.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, China



Cytochrome P450 aromatase (encoded by the CYP19A1/aromatase gene) plays a critical physiologic role in endometriosis. Metformin is known to suppress prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-induced CYP19A1 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in human endometriotic stromal cells (ESCs). However, the possible mechanism behind this suppression remains to be determined.


In this study, ESCs were cultured with metformin, PGE2, and adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK) inhibitors. Expression of CYP19A1 mRNA and aromatase activity were measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and aromatase activity assay, respectively. The binding of the cyclic AMP response element-binding (CREB) protein to CYP19A1 promoter II (PII) was assessed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay.


We demonstrated that metformin downregulated the expression of aromatase mRNA (32%) and activity (25%) stimulated by PGE2 (4.18-fold and 2.14-fold) in ESCs via stimulation of AMPK. Following PGE2 treatment, there was a marked increase in CREB binding to aromatase PII, while metformin attenuated the above-mentioned stimulation by 67%.


Metformin could inhibit PGE2-induced CYP19A1 mRNA expression and aromatase activity via AMPK activation and inhibition of CREB to CYP19A1 PII in human ESCs. The results of the present study suggest that metformin may have unique therapeutic potential as an antiendometriotic drug in the future.


AMPK; CREB; CYP19A1; endometriosis; metformin

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