The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a highly conserved trimeric protein complex that is responsible for energy homeostasis in eukaryotic cells. Here, a 1.9 A resolution crystal structure of the isolated kinase domain from the alpha2 subunit of human AMPK, the first from a multicellular organism, is presented. This human form adopts a catalytically inactive state with distorted ATP-binding and substrate-binding sites. The ATP site is affected by changes in the base of the activation loop, which has moved into an inhibited DFG-out conformation. The substrate-binding site is disturbed by changes within the AMPKalpha2 catalytic loop that further distort the enzyme from a catalytically active form. Similar structural rearrangements have been observed in a yeast AMPK homologue in response to the binding of its auto-inhibitory domain; restructuring of the kinase catalytic loop is therefore a conserved feature of the AMPK protein family and is likely to represent an inhibitory mechanism that is utilized during function.