Metformin slows liver cyst formation and fibrosis in experimental model of polycystic liver disease

Yoichi Sato, Jiahe Qiu, Takuo Hirose, Takahiro Miura, Yasunori Sato, Masahiro Kohzuki, Osamu Ito

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Polycystic liver disease (PLD) is a hereditary liver disease in which the number of cysts increases over time, causing various abdominal symptoms and poor quality of life. Although effective treatment for PLD has not been established, we recently reported that long-term exercise ameliorated liver cyst formation and fibrosis with the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in polycystic kidney (PCK) rats, a PLD model. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether metformin, an indirect AMPK activator, was effective in PCK rats. PCK rats were randomly divided into a control (Con) group and a metformin-treated (Met) group. The Met group was treated orally with metformin in drinking water. After 12 wk, liver function, histology, and signaling cascades of PLD were examined in the groups. Metformin did not affect the body weight or liver weight, but it reduced liver cyst formation, cholangiocyte proliferation, and fibrosis around the cyst. Metformin increased the phosphorylation of AMPK and tuberous sclerosis complex 2 and decreased the phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin, S6, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase and the expression of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, aquaporin I, transforming growth factor-b, and type 1 collagen without changes in apoptosis or collagen degradation factors in the liver. Metformin slows the development of cyst formation and fibrosis with the activation of AMPK and inhibition of signaling cascades responsible for cellular proliferation and fibrosis in the liver of PCK rats. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study indicates that metformin, an indirect AMPK activator slows liver cyst formation and fibrosis in PLD rat model. Metformin attenuates excessive cell proliferation in the liver with the inactivation of mTOR and ERK pathways. Metformin also reduces the expression of proteins responsible for cystic fluid secretion and liver fibrosis. Metformin and AMPK activators may be potent drugs for polycystic liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G464-G473
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr


  • Cell proliferation
  • Cholangiocyte
  • Fibrosis
  • Metformin
  • Polycystic liver disease


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