Agonist-modulated regulation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in endothelial cells. Evidence for an AMPK -> Rac1 -> Akt -> endothelial nitric-oxide synthase pathway

Yehoshua C Levine, Gordon K Li, Thomas Michel
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2007 July 13, 282 (28): 20351-64
The endothelial isoform of nitric-oxide synthase (eNOS), a key determinant of vascular homeostasis, is a calcium/calmodulin-dependent phosphoprotein regulated by diverse cell surface receptors. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) stimulate eNOS activity through Akt/phosphoinositide 3-kinase and calcium-dependent pathways. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) also activates eNOS in endothelial cells; however, the molecular mechanisms linking agonist-mediated AMPK regulation with eNOS activation remain incompletely understood. We studied the role of AMPK in VEGF- and S1P-mediated eNOS activation and found that both agonists led to a striking increase in AMPK phosphorylation in pathways involving the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase beta. Treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors or the phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin demonstrated differential effects of VEGF versus S1P. Small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of AMPKalpha1or Akt1 impaired the stimulatory effects of both VEGF and S1P on eNOS activation. AMPKalpha1 knockdown impaired agonist-mediated Akt phosphorylation, whereas Akt1 knockdown did not affect AMPK activation, thus suggesting that AMPK lies upstream of Akt in the pathway leading from receptor activation to eNOS stimulation. Importantly, we found that siRNA-mediated knockdown of AMPKalpha1 abrogates agonist-mediated activation of the small GTPase Rac1. Conversely, siRNA-mediated knockdown of Rac1 decreased the agonist-mediated phosphorylation of AMPK substrates without affecting that of AMPK, implicating Rac1 as a molecular link between AMPK and Akt in agonist-mediated eNOS activation. Finally, siRNA-mediated knockdown of caveolin-1 significantly enhanced AMPK phosphorylation, suggesting that AMPK is negatively regulated by caveolin-1. Taken together, these results suggest that VEGF and S1P differentially regulate AMPK and establish a central role for an agonist-modulated AMPK --> Rac1 --> Akt axis in the control of eNOS in endothelial cells.

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