Metformin restrains pancreatic duodenal homeobox-1 (PDX-1) function by inhibiting ERK signaling in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

G. Zhou, J. Yu, A. Wang, S. H. Liu, J. Sinnett-Smith, J. Wu, R. Sanchez, J. Nemunaitis, C. Ricordi, E. Rozengurt, F. C. Brunicardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most potent and perilous diseases known, with a median survival rate of 3-5 months due to the combination of only advanced stage diagnosis and ineffective therapeutic options. Metformin (1,1-Dimethylbiguanide hydrochloride), the leading drug used for type 2 diabetes mellitus, emerges as a potential therapy for PDAC and other human cancers. Metformin exerts its anticancer action via a variety of adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK)- dependent and/or AMPK-independent mechanisms. We present data here showing that metformin downregulated pancreatic transcription factor pancreatic duodenal homeobox-1 (PDX-1), suggesting a potential novel mechanism by which metformin exerts its anticancer action. Metformin inhibited PDX-1 expression at both protein and mRNA levels and PDX-1 transactivity as well in PDAC cells. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) was identified as a PDX-1-interacting protein by antibody array screening in GFP-PDX-1 stable HEK293 cells. Co-transfection of ERK1 with PDX-1 resulted in an enhanced PDX-1 expression in HEK293 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Immunoprecipitation/Western blotting analysis confirmed the ERK-PDX-1 interaction in PANC-1 cells stimulated by epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF induced an enhanced PDX-1 expression in PANC-1 cells and this stimulation was inhibited by MEK inhibitor PD0325901. Metformin inhibited EGF-stimulated PDX-1 expression with an accompanied inhibition of ERK kinase activation in PANC- 1 cells. Taken together, our studies show that PDX-1 is a potential novel target for metformin in PDAC cells and that metformin may exert its anticancer action in PDAC by down-regulating PDX-1 via a mechanism involving inhibition of ERK signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-90
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • EGF
  • ERK
  • Metformin
  • PDAC
  • PDX-1
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Metformin restrains pancreatic duodenal homeobox-1 (PDX-1) function by inhibiting ERK signaling in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this