Author(s): Zhuang Y, Miskimins WK, Zhuang Y, Miskimins WK
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Abstract There is substantial evidence that metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetics, is potentially useful as a therapeutic agent for cancer. However, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which metformin promotes cell-cycle arrest and cell death of cancer cells is necessary. It will also be important to understand how the response of tumor cells differs from normal cells and why some tumor cells are resistant to the effects of metformin. We have found that exposure to metformin induces cell death in all but one line, MDA-MB-231, in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. MCF10A nontransformed breast epithelial cells were resistant to the cytotoxic effects of metformin, even after extended exposure to the drug. In sensitive lines, cell death was mediated by both apoptosis and a caspase-independent mechanism. The caspase-independent pathway involves activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and correlates with enhanced synthesis of PARP and nuclear translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), which plays an important role in mediating cell death. Metformin-induced, PARP-dependent cell death is associated with a striking enlargement of mitochondria. Mitochondrial enlargement was observed in all sensitive breast cancer cell lines but not in nontransformed cells or resistant MDA-MB-231. Mitochondrial enlargement was prevented by inhibiting PARP activity or expression. A caspase inhibitor blocked metformin-induced apoptosis but did not affect PARP-dependent cell death or mitochondrial enlargement. Thus, metformin has cytotoxic effects on breast cancer cells through 2 independent pathways. These findings will be pertinent to efforts directed at using metformin or related compounds for cancer therapy.
This article was published in Mol Cancer Res
and referenced in Journal of Thyroid Disorders & Therapy