Effects of metformin on metabolite profiles and LDL cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes

Tao Xu, Stefan Brandmaier, Ana C. Messias, Christian Herder, Harmen H M Draisma, Ayse Demirkan, Zhonghao Yu, Janina S. Ried, Toomas Haller, Margit Heier, Monica Campillos, Gisela Fobo, Renee Stark, Christina Holzapfel, Jonathan Adam, Shen Chi, Markus Rotter, Tommaso Panni, Anne S. Quante, Ying HeCornelia Prehn, Werner Roemisch-Margl, Gabi Kastenmuller, Gonneke Willemsen, Reńe Pool, Katarina Kasa, Ko Willems Van Dijk, Thomas Hankemeier, Christa Meisinger, Barbara Thorand, Andreas Ruepp, Martin Hrabe De Angelis, Yixue Li, H. E. Wichmann, Bernd Stratmann, Konstantin Strauch, Andres Metspalu, Christian Gieger, Karsten Suhre, Jerzy Adamski, Thomas Illig, Wolfgang Rathmann, Michael Roden, Annette Peters, Cornelia M. Van Duijn, Dorret I. Boomsma, Thomas Meitinger, Rui Wang-Sattler

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49 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE Metformin is used as a first-line oral treatment for type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we aimed to comprehensively investigate the pleiotropic effects of metformin. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We analyzed both metabolomic and genomic data of the population-based KORA cohort. To evaluate the effect of metformin treatment on metabolite concentrations, we quantified 131metabolites in fasting serumsamples and usedmultivariable linear regression models in three independent cross-sectional studies (n = 151 patients with T2D treated with metformin [mt-T2D]). Additionally, we used linear mixed-effect models to study the longitudinal KORA samples (n = 912) and performed mediation analyses to investigate the effects of metformin intake on blood lipid profiles. We combined genotyping data with the identified metforminassociated metabolites in KORA individuals (n = 1,809) and explored the underlying pathways. RESULTS We found significantly lower (P < 5.0E-06) concentrations of three metabolites (acyl-alkyl phosphatidylcholines [PCs]) when comparing mt-T2D with four control groupswhowere not using glucose-lowering oralmedication. These findings were controlled for conventional risk factors of T2D and replicated in two independent studies. Furthermore, we observed that the levels of thesemetabolites decreased significantly in patients after they started metformin treatment during 7 years' follow-up. The reduction of these metabolites was also associated with a lowered blood level of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C). Variations of these three metabolites were significantly associated with 17 genes (including FADS1 and FADS2) and controlled by AMPK, a metformin target. CONCLUSIONS Our results indicate that metformin intake activates AMPK and consequently suppresses FADS, which leads to reduced levels of the three acyl-alkyl PCs and LDL-C. Our findings suggest potential beneficial effects of metformin in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1858-1867
Number of pages10
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Advanced and Specialised Nursing

Cite this

Xu, T., Brandmaier, S., Messias, A. C., Herder, C., Draisma, H. H. M., Demirkan, A., Yu, Z., Ried, J. S., Haller, T., Heier, M., Campillos, M., Fobo, G., Stark, R., Holzapfel, C., Adam, J., Chi, S., Rotter, M., Panni, T., Quante, A. S., ... Wang-Sattler, R. (2015). Effects of metformin on metabolite profiles and LDL cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 38(10), 1858-1867. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc15-0658