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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 May 10;293(3):892-8.

AMP-activated protein kinase kinase: detection with recombinant AMPK alpha1 subunit.

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Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Endocrine-Metabolism Division, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH 03755-3833, USA.


The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a heterotrimeric serine/threonine protein kinase important for the responses to metabolic stress. It consists of a catalytic alpha subunit and two non-catalytic subunits, beta and gamma, and is regulated both by the allosteric action of AMP and by phosphorylation of the alpha and beta subunits catalyzed by AMPKK(s) and autophosphorylation. The Thr172 site on the alpha subunit has been previously characterized as an activating phosphorylation site. Using bacterially expressed AMPK alpha1 subunit proteins, we have explored the role of Thr172-directed AMPKKs in alpha subunit regulation. Recombinant alpha1 subunit proteins, representing the N-terminus, have been expressed as maltose binding protein (MBP) 6x His fusion proteins and purified to homogeneity by Ni(2+) chromatography. Both wild-type alpha1(1-312) and alpha1(1-312)T172D are inactive when expressed in bacteria, but the former can be fully phosphorylated (1 mol/mol) on Thr172 and activated by a surrogate AMPKK, CaMKKbeta. The corresponding AMPKalpha1(1-392), an alpha construct containing its autoinhibitory sequence, can be similarly phosphorylated, but it remains inactive. In an insulinoma cell line, either low glucose or 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside (AICAR) treatment leads to activation and T172 phosphorylation of endogenous AMPK. Under the same conditions of cell incubation, we have identified an AMPKK activity that both phosphorylates and activates the recombinant alpha1(1-312), but this Thr172-directed AMPKK activity is unaltered by low glucose or AICAR, indicating that it is constitutively active.

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