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AMPK regulates metabolism and survival in response to ionizing radiation

Vanessa E. Zannella, Dan Cojocari, Susan Hilgendorf, Ravi N. Vellanki, Stephen Chung, Bradly G. Wouters and Marianne Koritzinsky

Volume 99, Issue 3 , Pages 293-299, June 2011  


Background and purpose
AMPK is a metabolic sensor and an upstream inhibitor of mTOR activity. AMPK is phosphorylated by ionizing radiation (IR) in an ATM dependent manner, but the cellular consequences of this phosphorylation event have remained unclear. The objective of this study was to assess whether AMPK plays a functional role in regulating cellular responses to IR.

The importance of AMPK expression for radiation responses was investigated using both MEFs (mouse embryo fibroblasts) double knockout for AMPK α1/α2 subunits and human colorectal carcinoma cells (HCT 116) with AMPK α1/α2 shRNA mediated knockdown.

We demonstrate here that IR results in phosphorylation of both AMPK and its substrate, ACC. IR moderately stimulated mTOR activity, and this was substantially exacerbated in the absence of AMPK. AMPK was required for IR induced expression of the mTOR inhibitor REDD1, indicating that AMPK restrains mTOR activity through multiple mechanisms. Likewise, cellular metabolism was deregulated following irradiation in the absence of AMPK, as evidenced by a substantial increase in oxygen consumption rates and lactate production. AMPK deficient cells showed impairment of the G1/S cell cycle checkpoint, and were unable to support long-term proliferation during starvation following radiation. Lastly, we show that AMPK proficiency is important for clonogenic survival after radiation during starvation.

These data reveal novel functional roles for AMPK in regulating mTOR signaling, cell cycle, survival and metabolic responses to IR.