AMP-activated protein kinase: balancing the scales

Biochimie. 2005 Jan;87(1):87-91. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2004.10.017.


AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the central component of a protein kinase cascade that plays a key role in the regulation of energy control. AMPK is activated in response to an increase in the ratio of AMP:ATP within the cell. Activation requires phosphorylation of threonine 172 within the catalytic subunit of AMPK by an upstream kinase. The identity of the upstream kinase in the cascade remained frustratingly elusive for many years, but was recently identified as LKB1, a kinase that is inactivated in a rare hereditary form of cancer called Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. Once activated, AMPK initiates a series of responses that are aimed at restoring the energy balance within the cell. ATP-consuming, anabolic pathways, such as fatty acid synthesis and protein synthesis are switched-off, whereas ATP-generating, catabolic pathways, such as fatty acid oxidation and glycolysis, are switched-on. More recent studies have indicated, that AMPK plays an important role in the regulation of whole body energy metabolism. The adipocyte-derived hormones, leptin and adiponectin, activate AMPK in peripheral tissues, including skeletal muscle and liver, increasing energy expenditure. In the hypothalamus, AMPK is inhibited by leptin and insulin, hormones which suppress feeding, whilst ghrelin, a hormone that increases food intake, activates AMPK. Furthermore, direct pharmacological activation of AMPK in the hypothalamus by 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribose increases food intake in rats, demonstrating that AMPK plays a direct role in the regulation of feeding. Taken together these findings indicate that AMPK has a pivotal role in regulating pathways that control both energy expenditure and energy intake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Animals
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / enzymology
  • Multienzyme Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Multienzyme Complexes / chemistry
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / chemistry
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases