To better define the modifications of liver gluconeogenesis and citric acid cycle, or Krebs' cycle, activity induced by insulin deficiency and the effects of metformin on these abnormalities, we infused livers isolated from postabsorptive or starved normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats with pyruvate and lactate (labeled with [3-13C]lactate) with or without the simultaneous infusion of metformin. Lactate and pyruvate uptake and glucose production were calculated. The 13C-labeling pattern of liver glutamate was used to calculate, according to Magnusson's model, the relative fluxes through Krebs' cycle and gluconeogenesis. These relative fluxes were converted into absolute values using substrate balances. In normal rats, starvation increased gluconeogenesis, the flux through pyruvate carboxylase-phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PC-PEPCK), and the ratio of PC to pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) flux (P < 0.05); metformin induced only a moderate decrease in the PC:PDH ratio. Livers from postabsorptive diabetic rats had increased lactate and pyruvate uptakes (P < 0.05); their metabolic fluxes resembled those of starved control livers, with increased gluconeogenesis and flux through PC-PEPCK. Starvation induced no further modifications in the diabetic group. Metformin decreased glucose output from the liver of starved diabetic rats (P < 0.05). The flux through PC-PEPCK and also pyruvate kinase were decreased (P < 0.05) by metformin in both groups of diabetic rats. In conclusion, insulin deficiency increased in this model of diabetes gluconeogenesis through enhanced uptake of substrate and increased flux through PC-PEPCK; metformin decreased glucose production by reducing the flux through PC-PEPCK.

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