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J Biol Chem. 2008 Feb 15;283(7):3731-42. Epub 2007 Dec 13.

Inhibition of AMP-activated protein kinase sensitizes cancer cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis via hyper-induction of p53.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Medical Research Center for Bioreaction to Reactive Oxygen Species, Kyung Hee University School of Medicine, Tongdaemun-gu, Hoegi-dong 1, Seoul 130-701, Korea.


Cisplatin is one of the most effective and widely used chemotherapeutic agents. However, one of the most salient limitations to the clinical application of cisplatin is the acquired or intrinsic drug resistance exhibited by some tumors. In the present study, we have assessed the potential of an intracellular energy balancing system as a target for augmentation of cisplatin sensitivity in tumors. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) regulates the energy balance system by monitoring intracellular energy status. Here we demonstrate that AMPK is rapidly activated by cisplatin in AGS and HCT116 cancer cells. The inhibition of AMPK in those cells and in xenografts of HCT116 resulted in a remarkable increase in cisplatin-induced apoptosis, which was associated with hyper-induction of the tumor suppressor p53. We further showed that ERK, but not ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) and ATR (ATM- and Rad3-related) kinases, was involved in the hyper-induction of p53 by the inhibition of cisplatin-induced AMPK. By way of contrast, cisplatin did not induce AMPK activation in HeLa cells, which appear to have a relatively high sensitivity to cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity, but expression of the constitutive active form of AMPK in HeLa cells resulted in a significant increase of cell viability after cisplatin treatment. Collectively, our data suggest that AMPK performs a pivotal function for protection against the cytotoxic effect of cisplatin, thereby implying that AMPK is one of the cellular factors determining the cellular sensitivity to cisplatin. On the basis of these observations, we propose that a strategy combining cisplatin and AMPK inhibition could be developed into a novel chemotherapeutic modality.

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