Metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, possesses anti-inflammatory property beyond its glucose-lowering activity, but its regulatory effect on mast cells and allergic responses remains unknown, wherein the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-ligand axis is critical in controlling mast cell activation. Herein, we provide evidence supporting the role of metformin in modulating mast cell activation by FcεR1-, AhR-mediated signaling or their combination. Metformin at relatively low doses was shown to suppress FcεR1-mediated degranulation, IL-13, TNF-α and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) secretion in murine bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMCs). In contrast, metformin at the same doses potently inhibited all parameters in mast cells stimulated with an AhR ligand, 5,11-dihydroindolo[3,2-b]carbazole-6-carbaldehyde (FICZ). Further, metformin was shown to inhibit FcεR1- and AhR-mediated passive cutaneous anaphylaxis (PCA) in vivo, reversible by a S1P receptor 2 antagonist, JTE-013. Using AhR reporter cells, Huh7-DRE-Luc cells, a human mast cell line, HMC-1, and BMMCs, metformin's inhibitory effect was mediated through the suppression of FICZ-induced AhR activity, calcium mobilization and ROS generation. Notably, FICZ-mediated oxidation of S1P lyase (S1PL) and its reduced activity were reversed by metformin, resulting in decreased levels of S1P. Collectively, these results suggested the potential utility of metformin in treating allergic diseases, particularly in cases with comorbid type II diabetes mellitus.
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