Glucocorticoids play central roles in the regulation of energy metabolism by shifting it toward catabolism, whereas AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the master regulator of energy homeostasis, sensing energy depletion and stimulating pathways of increasing fuel uptake and saving on peripheral supplies. We showed here that AMPK regulates glucocorticoid actions on carbohydrate metabolism by targeting the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and modifying transcription of glucocorticoid-responsive genes in a tissue- and promoter-specific fashion. Activation of AMPK in rats reversed glucocorticoid-induced hepatic steatosis and suppressed glucocorticoid-mediated stimulation of glucose metabolism. Transcriptomic analysis in the liver suggested marked overlaps between the AMPK and glucocorticoid signaling pathways directed mostly from AMPK to glucocorticoid actions. AMPK accomplishes this by phosphorylating serine 211 of the human GR indirectly through phosphorylation and consequent activation of p38 MAPK and by altering attraction of transcriptional coregulators to DNA-bound GR. In human peripheral mononuclear cells, AMPK mRNA expression positively correlated with that of glucocorticoid-responsive glucocorticoid-inducible leucine zipper protein, which correlated also positively with the body mass index of subjects. These results indicate that the AMPK-mediated energy control system modulates glucocorticoid action at target tissues. Because increased action of glucocorticoids is associated with the development of metabolic disorders, activation of AMPK could be a promising target for developing pharmacological interventions to these pathologies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology