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Biochem J. 1998 Aug 15;334 ( Pt 1):177-87.

AMP-activated protein kinase: greater AMP dependence, and preferential nuclear localization, of complexes containing the alpha2 isoform.

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Biochemistry Department, The University, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, U. K.


Mammalian AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the downstream component of a cascade that is activated by cellular stresses associated with ATP depletion. AMPK exists as heterotrimeric alphabetagamma complexes, where the catalytic subunit has two isoforms (alpha1 and alpha2) with different tissue distributions. The budding yeast homologue is the SNF1 kinase complex, which is essential for derepression of glucose-repressed genes, and seems to act by the direct phosphorylation of transcription factors in the nucleus. AMPK complexes containing the alpha2 rather than the alpha1 isoform have a greater dependence on AMP (approx. 5-fold stimulation compared with approx. 2-fold) both in direct allosteric activation and in reactivation by the upstream kinase. We have also examined their subcellular localization by using Western blotting of nuclear preparations, and by using two detection methods in the confocal microscope, i.e. indirect immunofluorescence of endogenous proteins and transfection of DNA species encoding green fluorescent protein-alpha-subunit fusions. By all three methods a significant proportion of alpha2, but not alpha1, is localized in the nucleus. Like SNF1, AMPK-alpha2 complexes could therefore be involved in the direct regulation of gene expression. The observed differences in the regulation of alpha1 and alpha2 complexes by AMP might result in differential responses to ATP depletion in distinct cellular and subcellular locations.

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