Activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase-p38 MAP kinase pathway mediates apoptosis induced by conjugated linoleic acid in p53-mutant mouse mammary tumor cells

Cell Signal. 2010 Apr;22(4):590-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2009.11.011. Epub 2009 Nov 20.


Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) inhibits tumorigenesis and tumor growth in most model systems, an effect mediated in part by its pro-apoptotic activity. We previously showed that trans-10,cis-12 CLA induced apoptosis of p53-mutant TM4t mouse mammary tumor cells through both mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways. In the current study, we investigated the role of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a key player in fatty acid metabolism, in CLA-induced apoptosis in TM4t cells. We found that t10,c12-CLA increased phosphorylation of AMPK, and that CLA-induced apoptosis was enhanced by the AMPK agonist 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR) and inhibited by the AMPK inhibitor compound C. The increased AMPK activity was not due to nutrient/energy depletion since ATP levels did not change in CLA-treated cells, and knockdown of the upstream kinase LKB1 did not affect its activity. Furthermore, our data do not demonstrate a role for the AMPK-modulated mTOR pathway in CLA-induced apoptosis. Although CLA decreased mTOR levels, activity was only modestly decreased. Moreover, rapamycin, which completely blocked the activity of mTORC1 and mTORC2, did not induce apoptosis, and attenuated rather than enhanced CLA-induced apoptosis. Instead, the data suggest that CLA-induced apoptosis is mediated by the AMPK-p38 MAPK-Bim pathway: CLA-induced phosphorylation of AMPK and p38 MAPK, and increased expression of Bim, occurred with a similar time course as apoptosis; phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was blocked by compound C; the increased Bim expression was blocked by p38 MAPK siRNA; CLA-induced apoptosis was attenuated by the p38 inhibitor SB-203580 and by siRNAs directed against p38 MAPK or Bim.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / metabolism*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / genetics
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mice
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Mutation
  • Proteins
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases