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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Nov 26;324(4):1204-9.

AMPK inhibits fatty acid-induced increases in NF-kappaB transactivation in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells.

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Diabetes and Metabolism Research Unit, Department of Medicine and Section of Endocrinology, Boston University School of Medicine, 650 Albany St., 8th Floor, Room 820, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


The fuel sensing enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) enhances processes that generate ATP when stresses such as exercise or glucose deprivation make cells energy deficient. We report here a novel role of AMPK, to prevent the activation of NF-kappaB in endothelial cells exposed to the fatty acid palmitate or the cytokine TNF-alpha. Incubation of cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) with elevated levels of palmitate (0.4mM) increased NF-kappaB reporter gene expression by 2- to 4-fold within 8h and caused a 7-fold increase in VCAM-1 mRNA expression at 24h. In contrast, no increase in reporter gene expression was detected for AP-1, glucocorticoid-, cyclic AMP-, or serum response elements. Similar increases in NF-kappaB activation and VCAM-1 expression were not observed in cells incubated with an elevated concentration of glucose (25mM). The increases in NF-kappaB activation and VCAM-1 expression caused by palmitate were markedly inhibited by co-incubation with the AMPK activator AICAR and, where studied, by expression of a constitutively active AMPK. Likewise, AMPK activation inhibited the increase in NF-kappaB reporter gene expression observed in HUVEC incubated with TNF-alpha. The results suggest that AMPK inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB caused by both palmitate and TNF-alpha. The mechanism responsible for this action, as well as its relevance to the reported anti-atherogenic actions of exercise, metformin, thiazolidinediones, and adiponectin, all of which have been shown to activate AMPK, remains to be determined.

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