PT-1 selectively activates AMPK-γ1 complexes in mouse skeletal muscle, but activates all three γ subunit complexes in cultured human cells by inhibiting the respiratory chain

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AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) occurs as heterotrimeric complexes in which a catalytic subunit (α1/α2) is bound to one of two b subunits (β1/β2) and one of three γ subunits (γ1/γ2/γ3). The ability to selectively activate specific isoforms would be a useful research tool, and a promising strategy to combat diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. We report that the AMPK activator PT-1 selectively increased the activity of γ1- but not γ3-containing complexes in incubated mouse muscle. PT-1 increased the AMPK-dependent phosphorylation of the autophagy-regulating kinase ULK1 on Ser555, but not proposed AMPK-γ3 substrates such as Ser231 on TBC1D1 or Ser212 on ACC2, nor did it stimulate glucose transport. Surprisingly, however, in HEK-293 cells expressing human γ1, γ2 or γ3, PT-1 activated all three complexes equally. We were unable to reproduce previous findings suggesting that PT-1 activates AMPK by direct binding between the kinase and auto-inhibitory domains of the α subunit. We show instead that PT-1 activates AMPK indirectly by inhibiting the respiratory chain and increasing cellular AMP:ATP and/or ADP:ATP ratios. Consistent with this mechanism, PT-1 failed to activate AMPK in HEK-293 cells expressing an AMP-insensitive R299G mutant of AMPK-γ1. We propose that the failure of PT-1 to activate γ3-containing complexes in muscle is not an intrinsic feature of such complexes, but is because PT-1 does not increase cellular AMP:ATP ratios in the specific subcellular compartment(s) in which γ3 complexes are located.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)461-472
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 131739473