Antioxid Redox Signal 2011 May 18;14(10):1863-76. Epub 2011 Feb 18.
Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, RCSI Neuroscience Research Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.
5'-Adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key sensor of cellular energy status. AMPK signaling regulates energy balance at the cellular, organ, and whole-body level. More recently, it has become apparent that AMPK plays also an important role in long-term decisions that determine cell fate, in particular cell cycle progression and apoptosis activation. Here, we describe the diverse mechanisms of AMPK activation and the role of AMPK in the regulation of cellular energy balance. We summarize recent studies implicating AMPK activation in the regulation of neuronal survival and as a key player during ischemic stroke. We also suggest that AMPK activation may have dual functions in the regulation of neuronal survival: AMPK provides a protective effect during transient energy depletion as exemplified in a model of neuronal Ca(2+) overloading, and this effect is partially mediated by the activation of neuronal glucose transporter 3. Prolonged AMPK activation, on the contrary, can lead to neuronal apoptosis via the transcriptional activation of the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member, bim. Molecular switches that determine the protective versus cell death-inducing effects of AMPK activation are discussed.