Mechanisms of Paradoxical Activation of AMPK by the Kinase Inhibitors SU6656 and Sorafenib

Fiona A. Ross, Simon A. Hawley, F. Romana Auciello, Graeme J. Gowans, Abdelmadjid Atrih, Douglas J. Lamont, D. Grahame Hardie (Lead / Corresponding author)

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46 Citations (Scopus)
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SU6656, a Src kinase inhibitor, was reported to increase fat oxidation and reduce body weight in mice, with proposed mechanisms involving AMPK activation via inhibition of phosphorylation of either LKB1 or AMPK by the Src kinase, Fyn. However, we report that AMPK activation by SU6656 is independent of Src kinases or tyrosine phosphorylation of LKB1 or AMPK, and is not due to decreased cellular energy status or binding at the ADaM site on AMPK. SU6656 is a potent AMPK inhibitor, yet binding at the catalytic site paradoxically promotes phosphorylation of Thr172 by LKB1. This would enhance phosphorylation of downstream targets as long as the lifetime of Thr172 phosphorylation was sufficient to allow dissociation of the inhibitor and for subsequent catalytic events to occur prior to its dephosphorylation. By contrast, sorafenib (a kinase inhibitor in clinical use) activates AMPK indirectly by inhibiting mitochondrial metabolism and increasing cellular AMP:ADP and/or ADP:ATP ratios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-824.e4
Number of pages16
JournalCell Chemical Biology
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2017


  • AMPK
  • AMP-activated protein kinase
  • SU6656
  • sorafenib
  • MRT199665
  • kinase inhibitors


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