AMP-activated protein kinase: a core signalling pathway in the heart
Over the past decade, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has emerged as an important intracellular signalling pathway in the heart. Activated AMPK stimulates the production of ATP by regulating key steps in both glucose and fatty acid metabolism. It has an inhibitory effect on cardiac protein synthesis. AMPK also interacts with additional intracellular signalling pathways in a coordinated network that modulates essential cellular processes in the heart. Evidence is accumulating that AMPK may protect the heart from ischaemic injury and limit the development of cardiac myocyte hypertrophy to various stimuli. Heart AMPK is activated by hormones, cytokines and oral hypoglycaemic drugs that are used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The tumour suppressor LKB1 is the major regulator of AMPK activity, but additional upstream kinases and protein phosphatases also contribute. Mutations in the regulatory γ2 subunit of AMPK lead to an inherited syndrome of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and ventricular pre-excitation, which appears to be due to intracellular glycogen accumulation. Future research promises to elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for AMPK activation, novel downstream AMPK targets, and the therapeutic potential of targeting AMPK for the prevention and treatment of myocardial ischaemia or cardiac hypertrophy.