Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Metformin anti-tumor effect via disruption of the MID1 translational regulator complex and AR downregulation in prostate cancer cells

Ummuhan Demir1, Andrea Koehler2, Rainer Schneider2, Susann Schweiger3 and Helmut Klocker1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Urology, Innsbruck Medical University, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

2 Institute of Biochemistry, Center of Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck (CMBI), University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

3 Institute for Human Genetics, Medical School, University of Mainz, 55131 Mainz, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-52

Published: 31 January 2014



Metformin is an approved drug prescribed for diabetes. Its role as an anti-cancer agent has drawn significant attention because of its minimal side effects and low cost. However, its mechanism of anti-tumour action has not yet been fully clarified.


The effect on cell growth was assessed by cell counting. Western blot was used for analysis of protein levels, Boyden chamber assays for analyses of cell migration and co-immunoprecipitation (CoIP) followed by western blot, PCR or qPCR for analysis of protein-protein and protein-mRNA interactions.


Metformin showed an anti-proliferative effect on a wide range of prostate cancer cells. It disrupted the AR translational MID1 regulator complex leading to release of the associated AR mRNA and subsequently to downregulation of AR protein in AR positive cell lines. Inhibition of AR positive and negative prostate cancer cells by metformin suggests involvement of additional targets. The inhibitory effect of metformin was mimicked by disruption of the MID1-α4/PP2A protein complex by siRNA knockdown of MID1 or α4 whereas AMPK activation was not required.


Findings reported herein uncover a mechanism for the anti-tumor activity of metformin in prostate cancer, which is independent of its anti-diabetic effects. These data provide a rationale for the use of metformin in the treatment of hormone naïve and castration-resistant prostate cancer and suggest AR is an important indirect target of metformin.

Metformin; Androgen receptor; MID1-α4/PP2A protein complex; AMPK; Translational regulation; CoIP