AMPK: An Energy-Sensing Pathway with Multiple Inputs and Outputs

Trends Cell Biol. 2016 Mar;26(3):190-201. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.10.013. Epub 2015 Nov 23.


AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key regulator of energy balance expressed ubiquitously in eukaryotic cells. Here we review the canonical adenine nucleotide-dependent mechanism that activates AMPK when cellular energy status is compromised, as well as other, noncanonical activation mechanisms. Once activated, AMPK acts to restore energy homeostasis by promoting catabolic pathways, resulting in ATP generation, and inhibiting anabolic pathways that consume ATP. We also review the various hypothesis-driven and unbiased approaches that have been used to identify AMPK substrates and have revealed substrates involved in both metabolic and non-metabolic processes. We particularly focus on methods for identifying the AMPK target recognition motif and how it can be used to predict new substrates.

Keywords: AMPK; allosteric activation; energy sensing; kinase recognition motif; kinase target identification; pharmacological activators.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / chemistry
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction


  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases