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Int J Biol Sci. 2019 Jan 1;15(3):617-627. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.29689. eCollection 2019.

Activation of AMPK by metformin promotes renal cancer cell proliferation under glucose deprivation through its interaction with PKM2.

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Department of Ultrasonography, China-Japan Union Hospital, Jilin University, Changchun, China.
Department of Urology, China-Japan Union Hospital, Jilin University, Changchun, China.


Metformin, a common therapeutics for type 2 diabetics, was recently demonstrated to possess antitumor activity in various cancer types. However, its therapy effect in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) still remains controversial. In this study, we found that metformin treatment in RCC cells lead to activation of AMPK, which suppressed the cell proliferation under normal condition, but enhanced cell proliferation under glucose deprivation (GD) condition. Depletion of AMPK by siRNA abolished the proliferation effect of MF under GD condition. Mechanistic investigations revealed that the effect of AMPK on cell proliferation under GD condition is dependent on its nuclear translocation. Moreover, the nuclear AMPK recruits PKM2 and β-Catenin to form a complex, which promotes the transcription of cell proliferation related genes, including CCND1 and c-Myc. Furthermore, depletion of PKM2 or β-Catenin abrogated the proliferative effects of metformin under GD condition. And inhibition of PKM2 also re-sensitized the A498 xenograft in response to metformin treatment. Together, our results suggested that combined of AMPK activation and PKM2 depletion or inhibition can achieve better therapeutic effect for RCC patients.


AMPK; PKM2; renal cancer; β-Catenin

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interest exists.

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