AMP-activated kinase restricts Rift Valley fever virus infection by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis

PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(4):e1002661. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002661. Epub 2012 Apr 19.


The cell intrinsic innate immune responses provide a first line of defense against viral infection, and often function by targeting cellular pathways usurped by the virus during infection. In particular, many viruses manipulate cellular lipids to form complex structures required for viral replication, many of which are dependent on de novo fatty acid synthesis. We found that the energy regulator AMPK, which potently inhibits fatty acid synthesis, restricts infection of the Bunyavirus, Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV), an important re-emerging arthropod-borne human pathogen for which there are no effective vaccines or therapeutics. We show restriction of RVFV both by AMPK and its upstream activator LKB1, indicating an antiviral role for this signaling pathway. Furthermore, we found that AMPK is activated during RVFV infection, leading to the phosphorylation and inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase, the first rate-limiting enzyme in fatty acid synthesis. Activating AMPK pharmacologically both restricted infection and reduced lipid levels. This restriction could be bypassed by treatment with the fatty acid palmitate, demonstrating that AMPK restricts RVFV infection through its inhibition of fatty acid biosynthesis. Lastly, we found that this pathway plays a broad role in antiviral defense since additional viruses from disparate families were also restricted by AMPK and LKB1. Therefore, AMPK is an important component of the cell intrinsic immune response that restricts infection through a novel mechanism involving the inhibition of fatty acid metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / immunology
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Mice
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Rift Valley Fever / enzymology*
  • Rift Valley Fever / immunology
  • Rift Valley fever virus / immunology
  • Rift Valley fever virus / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • STK11 protein, human
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase