AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) coordinates energy homeostasis during metabolic and energy stress. We report that the catalytic subunit isoform AMPK-α1 (but not α2) is cleaved by caspase-3 at an early stage during induction of apoptosis. AMPK-α1 cleavage occurs following Asp529, generating an ∼58-kDa N-terminal fragment (cl-AMPK-α1) and leading to the precise excision of the nuclear export sequence (NES) from the C-terminal end. This cleavage does not affect (1) the stability of pre-formed heterotrimeric complexes, (2) the ability of cl-AMPK-α1 to become phosphorylated and activated by the upstream kinases LKB1 or CaMKK2, or (3) allosteric activation by AMP or A-769662. Importantly, cl-AMPK-α1 is only detectable in the nucleus, consistent with removal of the NES, and ectopic expression of cleavage-resistant D529A-mutant AMPK-α1 promotes cell death induced by cytotoxic agents. Thus, we have elucidated a non-canonical mechanism of AMPK activation within the nucleus, which protects cells against death induced by DNA damage.
- CP: Cell biology
- CP: Molecular biology
- nuclear export sequence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)