Effects of metformin on BRIN-BD11 beta-cell insulin secretory desensitization induced by prolonged exposure to sulphonylureas

N. Irwin, J.M. McKinney, C.J. Bailey, P.R. Flatt, N.H. McClenaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Prolonged exposure of pancreatic beta-cells in vitro to the sulphonylureas tolbutamide and glibenclamide induces subsequent desensitization of insulinotropic pathways. Clinically, the insulin-sensitizing biguanide drug metformin is often administered alongside sulphonylurea as antidiabetic therapy. The present study examines the functional effects of metformin (200 µM) on tolbutamide- and glibenclamide-induced desensitisation. Methods: Acute and prolonged (18 h) effects of exposure to tolbutamide and glibenclamide alone, or in the presence of metformin, were examined in insulin-secreting BRIN-BD11 cells. Results: In acute 20 min incubations at 1.1 mM glucose, metformin increased (1.2-1.7-fold; p <0.001) the insulin-releasing actions of tolbutamide and glibenclamide. At 16.7 mM glucose, metformin significantly enhanced glibenclamide-induced insulin release at all concentrations (50-400 µM) examined, but tolbutamide-stimulated insulin secretion was only augmented at higher concentrations (300-400 µM). Exposure for 18 h to 100 µM tolbutamide or glibenclamide significantly impaired insulin release in response to glucose and a broad range of insulin secretagogues. Concomitant culture with metformin (200 µM) prevented or partially reversed many of the adverse effects on K channel dependent and independent insulinotropic pathways. Beneficial effects of metformin were also observed in cells exposed to glibenclamide for 18 h with significant improvements in the insulin secretory responsiveness to alanine, GLP-1 and sulphonylureas. The decrease of viable cell numbers observed with glibenclamide was reversed by co-culture with metformin, but cellular insulin content was depressed. Conclusions: The results suggest that metformin can prevent the aspects of sulphonylurea-induced beta-cell desensitization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1066-1071
Number of pages6
JournalDiabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
Issue number12
Early online date30 Jul 2010
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • clonal pancreatic β-cell
  • desensitization
  • insulin release
  • metformin
  • sulphonylurea


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