Metformin Triggers PYY Secretion in Human Gut Mucosa

Emily W. Sun, Alyce M. Martin, David A. Wattchow, Dayan De Fontgalland, Philippa Rabbitt, Paul Hollington, Richard L. Young, Damien J. Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The antidiabetic drug metformin causes weight loss, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Recent clinical studies show that metformin increases plasma levels of the anorectic gut hormone, peptide YY (PYY), but whether this is through a direct effect on the gut is unknown.

Objective: We hypothesized that exposure of human gut mucosal tissue to metformin would acutely trigger PYY secretion.

Design, Setting, Participants, and Interventions: Mucosal tissue was prepared from 46 human colonic and 9 ileal samples obtained after surgical resection and ex vivo secretion assays were performed. Tissue was exposed to metformin, as well as a series of other compounds as part of our mechanistic studies, in static incubations. Supernatant was sampled after 15 minutes.

Main Outcome Measures: PYY levels in supernatant, measured using ELISA.
Results: Metformin increased PYY secretion from both ileal (P < 0.05) and colonic (P < 0.001) epithelia. Both basal and metformin-induced PYY secretion were unchanged across body mass index or in tissues obtained from individuals with type 2 diabetes. Metformin-dependent PYY secretion was blocked by inhibitors of the plasma membrane monoamine transporter (PMAT) and the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT), as well as by an inhibitor of AMP kinase (AMPK).Conclusions: This is a report of a direct action of metformin on the gut epithelium to trigger PYY secretion in humans, occurring via cell internalization through PMAT and SERT and intracellular activation of AMPK. Our results provide further support that the role of metformin in the treatment of metabolic syndrome has a gut-based component.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2668-2674
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • PYY secretion
  • metformin
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatic and Gastrointestinal Hormones


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