AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) is a key metabolic sensor and stress signaling kinase. AMPK activity is known to suppress anabolic processes such as protein and lipid biosynthesis and promote energy-producing pathways including fatty acid oxidation, resulting in increased cellular energy. In addition, AMPK localizes to centrosomes during cell division, plays a role in cellular polarization, and directly targets p53, affecting apoptosis. Two distinct catalytic AMPKα isoforms exist: α1 and α2. Multiple reports indicate that both common and distinct functions exist for each of the 2 α isoforms. AMPK activation has been shown to repress tumor growth, and it has been suggested that AMPK may function as a metabolic tumor suppressor. To evaluate the potential role of each of the AMPKα isoforms in modulating cellular transformation, susceptibility to Ras-induced transformation was evaluated in normal murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) obtained from genetically deleted AMPKα1- or AMPKα2-null mice. This study demonstrated that while AMPKα1 is the dominant AMPK isoform expressed in MEFs, only the AMPKα2-null MEFs displayed increased susceptibility to H-RasV12 transformation in vitro and tumorigenesis in vivo. Conversely, AMPKα1-null MEFs, which demonstrated compensation with increased expression of AMPKα2, displayed minimal transformation susceptibility, decreased cell survival, decreased cell proliferation, and increased apoptosis. Finally, this study demonstrates that AMPKα2 was selectively responsible for targeting p53, thus contributing to the suppression of transformation and tumorigenic mechanisms.
Keywords: AMPK; cancer; p53; transformation.