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Adenosine monophosphate-activated kinase and its key role in catabolism: structure, regulation, biological activity, and pharmacological activation.


Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a cellular energy sensor, which once activated, plays a role in several processes within the cell to restore energy homeostasis. The protein enhances catabolic pathways, such as β-oxidation and autophagy, to generate ATP, and inhibits anabolic processes that require energy, including fatty acid, cholesterol, and protein synthesis. Due to its key role in the regulation of critical cellular pathways, deregulation of AMPK is associated with the pathology of many diseases, including cancer, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In fact, AMPK is a target of some pharmacological agents implemented in the treatment of diabetes (metformin and thiazolidinediones) as well as other naturally derived products, such as berberine, which is used in traditional medicine. Due to its critical role in the cell and the pathology of several disorders, research into developing AMPK as a therapeutic target is becoming a burgeoning and exciting field of pharmacological research. A profound understanding of the regulation and activity of AMPK would enhance its development as a promising therapeutic target.