Jang, T., Calaoagan, J. M., Kwon, E., Samuelsson, S., Recht, L., & Laderoute, K. R. (2011). 5′‐AMP‐activated protein kinase activity is elevated early during primary brain tumor development in the rat. International journal of cancer, 128(9), 2230-2239.
We found that adenosine 5′-monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is considered the “fuel sensor” of mammalian cells because it directly responds to the depletion of the fuel molecule ATP, is strongly activated by tumor-like hypoxia and glucose deprivation. We also observed abundant AMPK activity in tumor cells in vivo, using subcutaneous tumor xenografts prepared from cells transformed with oncogenic H-Ras. Such rapidly growing transplants of tumor cells, however, represent fully developed tumors that naturally contain energetically stressed microenvironments that can activate AMPK. Therefore, to investigate the induction of AMPK activity during experimental tumorigenesis, we used an established model of brain tumor (glioma) development in the offspring of rats exposed prenatally to the mutagen N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea. We observed that immunostaining for a specific readout of AMPK activity (AMPK-dependent phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase) was prominent during N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea-initiated neurocarcinogenesis, from the occurrence of early hyperplasia (microtumors) to the emergence of large gliomas. Moreover, we observed that immunostaining for activating phosphorylation of AMPK correlated with the same stages of glioma development, notably in mitotic tumor cells in which the signal showed punctate as well as cytoplasmic patterns associated with spindle formation. Based on these observations, we propose that neurocarcinogenesis requires AMPK-dependent regulation of cellular energy metabolism.