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Metformin, a drug prescribed to treat type-2 diabetes, exhibits anti-cancer effects in a portion of patients, but the direct molecular and genetic interactions leading to this pleiotropic effect have not yet been fully explored. To repurpose metformin as a precision anti-cancer therapy, we have developed a novel structural systems pharmacology approach to elucidate metformin’s molecular basis and genetic biomarkers of action. We integrated structural proteome-scale drug target identification with network biology analysis by combining structural genomic, functional genomic, and interactomic data. Through searching the human structural proteome, we identified twenty putative metformin binding targets and their interaction models. We experimentally verified the interactions between metformin and our topranked kinase targets. Notably, kinases, particularly SGK1 and EGFR were identified as key molecular targets of metformin. Subsequently, we linked these putative binding targets to genes that do not directly bind to metformin but whose expressions are altered by metformin through protein-protein interactions, and identified network biomarkers of phenotypic response of metformin. The molecular targets and the key nodes in genetic networks are largely consistent with the existing experimental evidence. Their interactions can be affected by the observed cancer mutations. This study will shed new light into repurposing metformin for safe, effective, personalized therapies.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, available at DOI: 10.1038/srep20441.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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