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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Complexes between the LKB1 tumor suppressor, STRADα/β and MO25α/β are upstream kinases in the AMP-activated protein kinase cascade

Simon A Hawley1, Jérôme Boudeau2, Jennifer L Reid1, Kirsty J Mustard1, Lina Udd3, Tomi P Mäkelä3, Dario R Alessi2* and D Grahame Hardie1*

Author affiliations

1 Division of Molecular Physiology, Wellcome Trust Biocentre, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 5EH, UK

2 MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, Wellcome Trust Biocentre, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 5EH, UK

3 Molecular Cancer Biology Program, Institute of Biomedicine and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Biomedicum Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland

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Citation and License

Journal of Biology 2003, 2:28  doi:10.1186/1475-4924-2-28


Correspondence regarding LKB1 should be addressed to Dario Alessi and regarding AMPK to Grahame Hardie.

Published: 24 September 2003

Abstract

Background

The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) cascade is a sensor of cellular energy charge that acts as a 'metabolic master switch' and inhibits cell proliferation. Activation requires phosphorylation of Thr172 of AMPK within the activation loop by upstream kinases (AMPKKs) that have not been identified. Recently, we identified three related protein kinases acting upstream of the yeast homolog of AMPK. Although they do not have obvious mammalian homologs, they are related to LKB1, a tumor suppressor that is mutated in the human Peutz-Jeghers cancer syndrome. We recently showed that LKB1 exists as a complex with two accessory subunits, STRADα/β and MO25α/β.

Results

We report the following observations. First, two AMPKK activities purified from rat liver contain LKB1, STRADα and MO25α, and can be immunoprecipitated using anti-LKB1 antibodies. Second, both endogenous and recombinant complexes of LKB1, STRADα/β and MO25α/β activate AMPK via phosphorylation of Thr172. Third, catalytically active LKB1, STRADα or STRADβ and MO25α or MO25β are required for full activity. Fourth, the AMPK-activating drugs AICA riboside and phenformin do not activate AMPK in HeLa cells (which lack LKB1), but activation can be restored by stably expressing wild-type, but not catalytically inactive, LKB1. Fifth, AICA riboside and phenformin fail to activate AMPK in immortalized fibroblasts from LKB1-knockout mouse embryos.

Conclusions

These results provide the first description of a physiological substrate for the LKB1 tumor suppressor and suggest that it functions as an upstream regulator of AMPK. Our findings indicate that the tumors in Peutz-Jeghers syndrome could result from deficient activation of AMPK as a consequence of LKB1 inactivation.