Although metformin is a widely used oral antihyperglycaemic, the exact mechanisms of its cellular uptake and action remain obscure. In this study the hepatic extraction and disposition kinetics of metformin were investigated by use of an isolated in-situ rat liver preparation. The liver was perfused in single-pass mode with protein-free Krebs bicarbonate medium at a flow rate of 20 mL min-1. During constant infusion with 1 mg L-1 metformin hydrochloride the hepatic uptake of metformin approached equilibrium within 10 min. The steady-state availability, F, determined from the ratio of outflow concentration to input concentration, was 0.99±0.02 (mean±s.d., n=4). The outflow profile of metformin resulting from a bolus injection of 25 μg into the portal vein, had a sharp peak then a slower declining terminal phase. The mean transit time (MTT; 49.5±14.5, n=6) and normalized variance (CV2; 4.13±0.05) of the hepatic transit times of metformin were estimated by numerical integration from the statistical moments of the outflow data. The volume of distribution of metformin in the liver (1.58±0.28 mL (g liver)-1) was estimated from its MTT. The volume of distribution is greater than the water space of liver, indicating that metformin enters the hepatic aqueous space and becomes distributed among cellular components. The magnitude of CV2 for metformin is greater than for the vascular marker sucrose, suggesting that distribution of metformin into hepatic tissue is not instantaneous. In conclusion, hepatic uptake of metformin is rate-limited by a permeability barrier. Although metformin is accumulated in the liver, the organ does not extract it.
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