BAY-3827 and SBI-0206965: potent AMPK inhibitors that paradoxically increase Thr172 phosphorylation

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AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the central component of a signalling pathway that senses energy stress and triggers a metabolic switch away from anabolic processes and towards catabolic processes. There has been a prolonged focus in the pharmaceutical industry on the development of AMPK-activating drugs for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, recent findings suggest that AMPK inhibitors might be efficacious for treating certain cancers, especially lung adenocarcinomas, in which the PRKAA1 gene (encoding the α1 catalytic subunit isoform of AMPK) is often amplified. Here, we study two potent AMPK inhibitors, BAY-3827 and SBI-0206965. Despite not being closely related structurally, the treatment of cells with either drug unexpectedly caused increases in AMPK phosphorylation at the activating site, Thr172, even though the phosphorylation of several downstream targets in different subcellular compartments was completely inhibited. Surprisingly, the two inhibitors appear to promote Thr172 phosphorylation by different mechanisms: BAY-3827 primarily protects against Thr172 dephosphorylation, while SBI-0206965 also promotes phosphorylation by LKB1 at low concentrations, while increasing cellular AMP:ATP ratios at higher concentrations. Due to its greater potency and fewer off-target effects, BAY-3827 is now the inhibitor of choice for cell studies, although its low bioavailability may limit its use in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
Article number453
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date29 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • AMP-activated protein kinase
  • AMPK
  • BAY-3827
  • cancer
  • compound C
  • kinase inhibitors
  • LKB1
  • SBI-0206965

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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