Metformin corrects abnormal circadian rhythm and KIR4.1 channels in diabetes

Alpha Alex, Qianyi Luo, Deepa Mathew, Rong Di, Ashay D. Bhatwadekar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


PURPOSE. Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a leading cause of visual impairment. Müller cells in DR are dysfunctional due to downregulation of the inwardly rectifying potassium channel Kir4.1. Metformin, a commonly used oral antidiabetic drug, is known to elicit its action through 5´ adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a cellular metabolic regulator; however, its effect on Kir4.1 channels is unknown. For this study, we hypothesized that metformin treatment would correct circadian rhythm disruption and Kir4.1 channel dysfunction in db/db mice. METHODS. Metformin was given orally to db/db mice. Wheel-running activity, retinal levels of Kir4.1, and AMPK phosphorylation were determined at study termination. In parallel, rat retinal Müller cell line (rMC-1) cells were treated using metformin and 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide (AICAR) to assess the effect of AMPK activation on the Kir4.1 channel. RESULTS. The wheel-running activity of the db/db mice was improved following the metformin treatment. The Kir4.1 level in Müller cells was corrected after metformin treatment. Metformin treatment led to an upregulation of clock regulatory genes such as melanopsin (Opn4) and aralkylamine N-acetyltransferase (Aanat). In rMC-1 cells, AMPK activation via AICAR and metformin resulted in increased Kir4.1 and intermediate core clock component Bmal-1 protein expression. The silencing of Prkaa1 (gene for AMPKα1) led to decreased Kir4.1 and Bmal-1 protein expression. CONCLUSIONS. Our findings demonstrate that metformin corrects abnormal circadian rhythm and Kir4.1 channels in db/db mouse a model of type 2 diabetes. Metformin could represent a critical pharmacological agent for preventing Müller cell dysfunction observed in human DR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number46
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • AMPK
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Müller cell dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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