Lac-Phe mediates the anti-obesity effect of metformin.
Metformin is a widely prescribed anti-diabetic medicine that also reduces body weight. The mechanisms that mediate metformin's effects on energy balance remain incompletely defined. Here we show that metformin is a powerful pharmacological inducer of the anorexigenic metabolite Lac-Phe in mice as well as in two independent human cohorts. In cell culture, metformin drives Lac-Phe biosynthesis via inhibition of complex I, increased glycolytic flux, and intracellular lactate mass action. Other biguanides and structurally distinct inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation also increase Lac-Phe levels . Genetic ablation of CNDP2, the principal biosynthetic enzyme for Lac-Phe, in mice renders animals resistant to metformin's anorexigenic and anti-obesity effects. Mediation analyses also support a role for Lac-Phe in metformin's effect on body mass index in humans. These data establish the CNDP2/Lac-Phe pathway as a critical mediator of the effects of metformin on energy balance.
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