Jacquel A, Luciano F, Robert G, Auberger P
Int J Mol Sci 2018 Sep;19(10)
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a heterotrimeric serine/threonine kinase consisting of the arrangement of various α β, and γisoforms that are expressed differently depending on the tissue or the cell lineage. AMPK is one of the major sensors of energy status in mammalian cells and as such plays essential roles in the regulation of cellular homeostasis, metabolism, cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis, and autophagy. AMPK is activated by two upstream kinases, the tumor suppressor liver kinase B1 (LKB1) and the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase 2 (CAMKK2) through phosphorylation of the kinase on Thr172, leading to its activation. In addition, AMPK inhibits the mTOR pathway through phosphorylation and activation of tuberous sclerosis protein 2 (TSC2) and causes direct activation of unc-51-like autophagy activating kinase 1 (ULK1) via phosphorylation of Ser555, thus promoting initiation of autophagy. Although it is well established that AMPK can control the differentiation of different cell lineages, including hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), progenitors, and mature hematopoietic cells, the role of AMPK regarding myeloid cell differentiation is less documented. The differentiation of monocytes into macrophages triggered by colony stimulating factor 1 (CSF-1), a process during which both caspase activation (independently of apoptosis induction) and AMPK-dependent stimulation of autophagy are necessary, is one noticeable example of the involvement of AMPK in the physiological differentiation of myeloid cells. The present review focuses on the role of AMPK in the regulation of the physiological and pathological differentiation of myeloid cells. The mechanisms of autophagy induction by AMPK will also be addressed, as autophagy has been shown to be important for differentiation of hematopoietic cells. In addition, myeloid malignancies (myeloid leukemia or dysplasia) are characterized by profound defects in the establishment of proper differentiation programs. Reinduction of a normal differentiation process in myeloid malignancies has thus emerged as a valuable and promising therapeutic strategy. As AMPK seems to exert a key role in the differentiation of myeloid cells, notably through induction of autophagy, we will also discuss the potential to target this pathway as a pro-differentiating and anti-leukemic strategy in myeloid malignancies.