Metformin (MET) is known to increase several biological effects of insulin (INS), but there is no information concerning its direct effects on protein synthesis. We studied the action of MET on albumin production by primary cultures of freshly isolated rat hepatocytes, alone or in combination with various agonists: INS, IGF-1, EGF, thyroxin, and dexamethasone. While having no effect alone, MET in vitro potentiates the effects of INS, IGF-1, and EGF. When this increasing effect toward INS was studied over a broad concentration range, MET appeared to improve low-acting INS levels and to intensify the maximal INS effects. In contrast, MET did not change the production of albumin stimulated by thyroxin or dexamethasone. Animals chronically pretreated with MET in vivo showed a higher yield of isolated hepatocytes, better attachment, and especially higher viability after liver perfusion and during cell culture. This may largely explain why basal albumin rates were higher than in in vitro-treated cells. The effect of MET in the presence of the agonists exhibited the same agonist-specificity as in vitro. Our data provide new insights into the pharmacology of MET by showing that hepatic protein synthesis is increased by MET and INS. From the specificity of action of MET towards INS, IGF-1, and EGF (but not thyroxin or dexamethasone), we hypothesize that this biguanide may act on intracellular pathways located between membrane receptors and sites of branching in the signaling cascades shared by these agonists. © 1995.
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