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AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key energy sensor that regulates metabolism to maintain cellular energy balance. AMPK activation has also been proposed to mimic benefits of caloric restriction and exercise. Therefore, identifying downstream AMPK targets could elucidate new mechanisms for maintaining cellular energy homeostasis. We identified the phosphotransferase nucleoside diphosphate kinase (NDPK), which maintains pools of nucleotides, as a direct AMPK target through the use of two-dimensional differential in-gel electrophoresis. Furthermore, we mapped the AMPK/NDPK phosphorylation site (serine 120) as a functionally potent enzymatic “off switch” both in vivo and in vitro. Because ATP is usually the most abundant cellular nucleotide, NDPK would normally consume ATP, whereas AMPK would inhibit NDPK to conserve energy. It is intriguing that serine 120 is mutated in advanced neuroblastoma, which suggests a mechanism by which NDPK in neuroblastoma can no longer be inhibited by AMPK-mediated phosphorylation. This novel placement of AMPK upstream and directly regulating NDPK activity has widespread implications for cellular energy/nucleotide balance, and we demonstrate in vivo that increased NDPK activity leads to susceptibility to energy deprivation–induced death.


Benjamin Margolis




American Society for Cell Biology


Bethesda, MD

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Molecular Biology of the Cell

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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