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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Apr;1840(4):1331-44. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2013.10.034. Epub 2013 Oct 27.

Role of AMPK-mediated adaptive responses in human cells with mitochondrial dysfunction to oxidative stress.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei 112, Taiwan.
Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei 112, Taiwan; Department of Medicine, Mackay Medical College, New Taipei City 252, Taiwan. Electronic address:



Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations are an important cause of mitochondrial diseases, for which there is no effective treatment due to complex pathophysiology. It has been suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction-elicited reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a vital role in the pathogenesis of mitochondrial diseases, and the expression levels of several clusters of genes are altered in response to the elevated oxidative stress. Recently, we reported that glycolysis in affected cells with mitochondrial dysfunction is upregulated by AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and such an adaptive response of metabolic reprogramming plays an important role in the pathophysiology of mitochondrial diseases.


We summarize recent findings regarding the role of AMPK-mediated signaling pathways that are involved in: (1) metabolic reprogramming, (2) alteration of cellular redox status and antioxidant enzyme expression, (3) mitochondrial biogenesis, and (4) autophagy, a master regulator of mitochondrial quality control in skin fibroblasts from patients with mitochondrial diseases.


Induction of adaptive responses via AMPK-PFK2, AMPK-FOXO3a, AMPK-PGC-1α, and AMPK-mTOR signaling pathways, respectively is modulated for the survival of human cells under oxidative stress induced by mitochondrial dysfunction. We suggest that AMPK may be a potential target for the development of therapeutic agents for the treatment of mitochondrial diseases.


Elucidation of the adaptive mechanism involved in AMPK activation cascades would lead us to gain a deeper insight into the crosstalk between mitochondria and the nucleus in affected tissue cells from patients with mitochondrial diseases. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Frontiers of Mitochondrial Research.


AMPK; Antioxidant enzyme; Autophagy; Metabolic reprogramming; Mitochondrial disease; Oxidative stress

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