Hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species are intimately involved in endothelial cell signaling. In many cell types, the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has been implicated in the control of metabolic responses, but the role of endothelial cell redox signaling in the modulation of AMPK remains to be completely defined. We used RNA interference and pharmacological methods to establish that H(2)O(2) is a critical activator of AMPK in cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs). H(2)O(2) treatment of BAECs rapidly and significantly increases the phosphorylation of AMPK. The EC(50) for H(2)O(2)-promoted phosphorylation of AMPK is 65 + or - 15 microM, within the physiological range of cellular H(2)O(2) concentrations. The Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase-beta (CaMKKbeta) inhibitor STO-609 abolishes H(2)O(2)-dependent AMPK activation, whereas eNOS inhibitors enhance AMPK activation. Similarly, siRNA-mediated knockdown of CaMKKbeta abrogates AMPK activation, whereas siRNA-mediated knockdown of eNOS leads to a striking increase in AMPK phosphorylation. Cellular imaging studies using the H(2)O(2) biosensor HyPer show that siRNA-mediated eNOS knockdown leads to a marked increase in intracellular H(2)O(2) generation, which is blocked by PEG-catalase. eNOS(-/-) mice show a marked increase in AMPK phosphorylation in liver and lung compared to wild-type mice. Lung endothelial cells from eNOS(-/-) mice also show a significant increase in AMPK phosphorylation. Taken together, these results establish that CaMKKbeta is critically involved in mediating the phosphorylation of AMPK promoted by H(2)O(2) in endothelial cells, and document that eNOS is an important negative regulator of AMPK phosphorylation and intracellular H(2)O(2) generation in endothelial cells.