The protein kinase AMPK (adenosine monophosphate–activated protein kinase) directly monitors cellular energy stores as reflected by changes in cellular concentrations of AMP, adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Through phosphorylation of its targets, it helps to control metabolism, polarity, autophagy, and the restraint of cell proliferation. Activation of AMPK is also proposed to be beneficial for the treatment of diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Hawley et al. (see the Perspective by Shaw and Cantley) report that AMPK can be activated by high concentrations of salicylate, a compound derived from the very commonly used drug aspirin. In mice, salicylate promoted fatty acid and carbohydrate metabolism in an AMPK-dependent fashion.
S. A. Hawley, M. D. Fullerton, F. A. Ross, J. D. Schertzer, C. Chevtzoff, K. J. Walker, M. W. Peggie, D. Zibrova, K. A. Green, K. J. Mustard, B. E. Kemp, K. Sakamoto, G. R. Steinberg, D. G. Hardie, The ancient drug salicylate directly activates AMP-activated protein kinase. Science 336, 918–922 (2012). [Abstract] [Full Text]