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INTRODUCTION: Metformin can accumulate and cause lactic acidosis in patients with renal insufficiency. Metformin is known to inhibit mitochondria, while renal secretion of the drug by proximal tubules indirectly requires energy. We investigated whether addition of metformin before or during ex vivo isolated normothermic machine perfusion (NMP) of porcine and rat kidneys affects its elimination.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: First, Lewis rats were pretreated with metformin or saline the day before nephrectomy. Subsequently, NMP of the kidney was performed for 90 min. Metformin was added to the perfusion fluid in one of three different concentrations (none, 30 mg/L or 300 mg/L). Second, metformin was added in increasing doses to the perfusion fluid during 4 hours of NMP of porcine kidneys. Metformin concentration was determined in the perfusion fluid and urine by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

RESULTS: Metformin clearance was approximately 4-5 times higher than creatinine clearance in both models, underscoring secretion of the drug. Metformin clearance at the end of NMP in rat kidneys perfused with 30 mg/L was lower than in metformin pretreated rats without the addition of metformin during perfusion (both p≤0.05), but kidneys perfused with 300 mg/L trended toward lower metformin clearance (p=0.06). Creatinine clearance was not different between treatment groups. During NMP of porcine kidneys, metformin clearance peaked at 90 min of NMP (18.2±13.7 mL/min/100 g). Thereafter, metformin clearance declined, while creatinine clearance remained stable. This observation can be explained by saturation of metformin transporters with a Michaelis-Menten constant (95% CI) of 23.0 (10.0 to 52.3) mg/L.

CONCLUSIONS: Metformin was secreted during NMP of both rat and porcine kidneys. Excretion of metformin decreased under increasing concentrations of metformin, which might be explained by saturation of metformin transporters rather than a self-inhibitory effect. It remains unknown whether a self-inhibitory effect contributes to metformin accumulation in humans with longer exposure times.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000816
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2020


  • metformin
  • transport
  • pharmacokinetics
  • lactic acidosis

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