Nuclear UHRF1 is a gate-keeper of cellular AMPK activity and function

Cell Res. 2022 Jan;32(1):54-71. doi: 10.1038/s41422-021-00565-y. Epub 2021 Sep 24.


The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a central regulator of energy homeostasis. Although much has been learned on how low energy status and glucose starvation activate AMPK, how AMPK activity is properly controlled in vivo is still poorly understood. Here we report that UHRF1, an epigenetic regulator highly expressed in proliferating and cancer cells, interacts with AMPK and serves to suppress AMPK activity under both basal and stressed conditions. As a nuclear protein, UHRF1 promotes AMPK nuclear retention and strongly suppresses nuclear AMPK activity toward substrates H2B and EZH2. Importantly, we demonstrate that UHRF1 also robustly inhibits AMPK activity in the cytoplasm compartment, most likely as a consequence of AMPK nucleocytoplasmic shuttling. Mechanistically, we found that UHRF1 has no obvious effect on AMPK activation by upstream kinases LKB1 and CAMKK2 but inhibits AMPK activity by acting as a bridging factor targeting phosphatase PP2A to dephosphorylate AMPK. Hepatic overexpression of UHRF1 showed profound effects on glucose and lipid metabolism in wild-type mice but not in those with the liver-specific knockout of AMPKα1/α2, whereas knockdown of UHRF1 in adipose tissue led to AMPK activation and reduced sizes of adipocytes and lipogenic activity, highlighting the physiological significance of this regulation in glucose and lipid metabolism. Thus, our study identifies UHRF1 as a novel AMPK gate-keeper with critical roles in cellular metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases* / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases* / metabolism
  • Adipocytes
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Glucose*
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Uhrf1 protein, mouse
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Glucose