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FEBS Open Bio. 2018 May 18;8(7):1104-1118. doi: 10.1002/2211-5463.12436. eCollection 2018 Jul.

Metformin treatment ameliorates diabetes-associated decline in hippocampal neurogenesis and memory via phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate 1.

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Department of Integrative Aging Neuroscience National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology Obu Japan.
Department of Neurology, Respirology, Endocrinology and Metabolism Miyazaki University School of Medicine Japan.
Department of Neurology and Stroke Medicine Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine Japan.


Age-related reduction in adult hippocampal neurogenesis is correlated with cognitive impairment. Diabetes is a chronic systemic disease that negatively affects adult neural stem cells and memory functions in the hippocampus. Despite growing concern regarding the potential role of diabetic drugs in neural abnormalities, their effects on progressive deterioration of neurogenesis and cognitive functions remain unknown. Here, we show that the combination of aging and diabetes in mice causes a marked decrease in hippocampal neurogenesis along with memory impairment and elevated neuroinflammation. Prolonged treatment with metformin, a biguanide antidiabetic medication, promotes cell proliferation and neuronal differentiation and inhibits aging- and diabetes-associated microglial activation, which is related to homeostatic neurogenesis, leading to enhanced hippocampal neurogenesis in middle-aged diabetic mice. Although chronic therapy with metformin fails to achieve recovery from hyperglycemia, a key feature of diabetes in middle-aged diabetic mice, it improves hippocampal-dependent spatial memory functions accompanied by increased phosphorylation of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), atypical protein kinase C ζ (aPKC ζ), and insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) at selective serine residues in the hippocampus. Our findings suggest that signaling networks acting through long-term metformin-stimulated phosphorylation of AMPK, aPKC ζ/λ, and IRS1 serine sites contribute to neuroprotective effects on hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive function independent of a hypoglycemic effect.


IRS1 serine phosphorylation; dementia; diabetes; diabetic drugs; drug repositioning; memory function

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