Dysfunctional AMPK activity, signalling through mTOR and survival in response to energetic stress in LKB1-deficient lung cancer

Oncogene. 2007 Mar 8;26(11):1616-25. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209951. Epub 2006 Sep 4.


LKB1, mutated in Peutz-Jeghers and in sporadic lung tumours, phosphorylates a group of protein kinases named AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-related kinases. Among them is included the AMPK, a sensor of cellular energy status. To investigate the relevance of LKB1 in lung carcinogenesis, we study several lung cancer cells with and without LKB1-inactivating mutations. We report that LKB1-mutant cells are deficient for AMPK activity and refractory to mTOR inhibition upon glucose depletion but not growth-factor deprivation. The requirement for wild-type LKB1 to properly activate AMPK is further demonstrated in genetically modified cancer cells. In addition, LKB1-deficient lung primary tumours had diminished AMPK activity, assessed by complete absence or low level of phosphorylation of its critical substrate, acetyl-CoA carboxylase. We also demonstrate that LKB1 wild-type cells are more resistant to cell death upon glucose withdrawal than their mutant counterparts. Finally, modulation of AMPK activity did not affect PI3K/AKT signalling, an advantage for the potential use of AMPK as a target for cancer therapy in LKB1 wild-type tumours. Thus, sustained abrogation of cell energetic checkpoint control, through alterations at key genes, appear to be an obligatory step in the development of some lung tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • STK11 protein, human
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases