Regulation of myoblast differentiation by metabolic perturbations induced by metformin

Theodora Pavlidou, Marco Rosina, Claudia Fuoco, Giulia Gerini, Cesare Gargioli, Luisa Castagnoli, Gianni Cesareni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The metabolic perturbation caused by calorie restriction enhances muscle repair by playing a critical role in regulating satellite cell availability and activity in the muscles of young and old mice. To clarify the underlying mechanisms we asked whether myoblast replication and differentiation are affected by metformin, a calorie restriction-mimicking drug. C2C12, a mouse myoblast cell line, readily differentiate in vitro and fuse to form myotubes. However, when incubated with metformin, C2C12 slow their replication and do not differentiate. Interestingly, lower doses of metformin promote myogenic differentiation. We observe that metformin treatment modulates the expression of cyclins and cyclin inhibitors thereby inducing a cell cycle perturbation that causes a delay in the G2/M transition. The effect of metformin treatment is reversible since after drug withdrawal, myoblasts can re-enter the cell cycle and/or differentiate, depending on culture conditions. Myoblasts cultured under metformin treatment fail to up-regulate MyoD and p21cip1, a key step in cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation. Although the details of the molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of the drug on myoblasts still need to be clarified, we propose that metformin negatively affects myogenic differentiation by inhibiting irreversible exit from the cell cycle through reduction of MyoD and p21cip1 levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182475
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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