Metformin-induced mitochondrial function and ABCD2 up-regulation in X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy involves AMP-activated protein kinase

Jaspreet Singh, Brittany Olle, Hamid Suhail, Michelle M. Felicella, Shailendra Giri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a progressive neurometabolic disease caused by mutations/deletions in the Abcd1 gene. Similar mutations/deletions in the Abcd1 gene often result in diagonally opposing phenotypes of mild adrenomyeloneuropathy and severe neuroinflammatory cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), which suggests involvement of downstream modifier genes. We recently documented the first evidence of loss of AMP-activated protein kinase α1 (AMPKα1) in ALD patient-derived cells. Here, we report the novel loss of AMPKα1 in postmortem brain white matter of patients with ALD phenotype. Pharmacological activation of AMPK can rescue the mitochondrial dysfunction and inhibit the pro-inflammatory response. The FDA approved anti-diabetic drug Metformin, a well-known AMPK activator, induces mitochondrial biogenesis and is documented for its anti-inflammatory role. We observed a dose-dependent activation of AMPKα1 in metformin-treated X-ALD patient-derived fibroblasts. Metformin also induced mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and ATP levels in X-ALD patient-derived fibroblasts. Metformin treatment decreased very long chain fatty acid levels and pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expressions in X-ALD patient-derived cells. Abcd2 [adrenoleukodystrophy protein-related protein] levels were increased in metformin-treated X-ALD patient-derived fibroblasts and Abcd1-KO mice primary mixed glial cells. Abcd2 induction was AMPKα1-dependent since metformin failed to induce Abcd2 levels in AMPKα1-KO mice-derived primary mixed glial cells. In vivo metformin (100 mg/Kg) in drinking water for 60 days induced Abcd2 levels and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation protein levels in the brain and spinal cord of Abcd1-KO mice. Taken together, these results provide proof-of-principle for therapeutic potential of metformin as a useful strategy for correcting the metabolic and inflammatory derangements in X-ALD by targeting AMPK. (Figure presented.) There is no effective therapy for inherited peroxisomal disorder X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD). We document the therapeutic potential of FDA approved drug, Metformin, for X-ALD by targeting AMPK. Metformin induced peroxisomal Abcd2 levels in vitro and in vivo. Metformin lowered VLCFA levels, improved mitochondrial function and ameliorated inflammatory gene expression in X-ALD patient-derived cells. Metformin-induced Abcd2 levels were dependent on AMPKα1, a metabolic and anti-inflammatory gene, recently documented by our laboratory to play a putative role in X-ALD pathology. Read the Editorial Highlight for this article on page 10.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-100
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • ABCD2
  • AMPKα1
  • Abcd1-KO mice
  • X-ALD
  • metformin
  • mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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