In vitro antiglioma action of indomethacin is mediated via AMP-activated protein kinase/mTOR complex 1 signalling pathway

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2017 Feb;83:84-96. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2016.12.007. Epub 2016 Dec 14.


We investigated the role of the intracellular energy-sensing AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in the in vitro antiglioma effect of the cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor indomethacin. Indomethacin was more potent than COX inhibitors diclofenac, naproxen, and ketoprofen in reducing the viability of U251 human glioma cells. Antiglioma effect of the drug was associated with p21 increase and G2M cell cycle arrest, as well as with oxidative stress, mitochondrial depolarization, caspase activation, and the induction of apoptosis. Indomethacin increased the phosphorylation of AMPK and its targets Raptor and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), and reduced the phosphorylation of mTOR and mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) substrates p70S6 kinase and PRAS40 (Ser183). AMPK knockdown by RNA interference, as well as the treatment with the mTORC1 activator leucine, prevented indomethacin-mediated mTORC1 inhibition and cytotoxic action, while AMPK activators metformin and AICAR mimicked the effects of the drug. AMPK activation by indomethacin correlated with intracellular ATP depletion and increase in AMP/ATP ratio, and was apparently independent of COX inhibition or the increase in intracellular calcium. Finally, the toxicity of indomethacin towards primary human glioma cells was associated with the activation of AMPK/Raptor/ACC and subsequent suppression of mTORC1/S6K. By demonstrating the involvement of AMPK/mTORC1 pathway in the antiglioma action of indomethacin, our results support its further exploration in glioma therapy.

Keywords: AMPK; Apoptosis; Glioma; Indomethacin; mTOR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / metabolism*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Indomethacin / pharmacology*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Models, Biological
  • Multiprotein Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Calcium
  • Indomethacin