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Orthologues of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) occur in essentially all eukaryotes as heterotrimeric complexes comprising catalytic α subunits and regulatory β and γ subunits. The canonical role of AMPK is as an energy sensor, monitoring levels of the nucleotides AMP, ADP, and ATP that bind competitively to the γ subunit. Once activated, AMPK acts to restore energy homeostasis by switching on alternate ATP-generating catabolic pathways while switching off ATP-consuming anabolic pathways. However, its ancestral role in unicellular eukaryotes may have been in sensing of glucose rather than energy. In this article, we discuss a few interesting recent developments in the AMPK field. Firstly, we review recent findings on the canonical pathway by which AMPK is regulated by adenine nucleotides. Secondly, AMPK is now known to be activated in mammalian cells by glucose starvation by a mechanism that occurs in the absence of changes in adenine nucleotides, involving the formation of complexes with Axin and LKB1 on the surface of the lysosome. Thirdly, in addition to containing the nucleotide-binding sites on the γ subunits, AMPK heterotrimers contain a site for binding of allosteric activators termed the allosteric drug and metabolite (ADaM) site. A large number of synthetic activators, some of which show promise as hypoglycaemic agents in pre-clinical studies, have now been shown to bind there. Fourthly, some kinase inhibitors paradoxically activate AMPK, including one (SU6656) that binds in the catalytic site. Finally, although downstream targets originally identified for AMPK were mainly concerned with metabolism, recently identified targets have roles in such diverse areas as mitochondrial fission, integrity of epithelial cell layers, and angiogenesis.
1/10/17 → 30/09/22