AMPKα-like proteins as LKB1 downstream targets in cell physiology and cancer

Ester Molina, Linda Hong, IIana I. Chefetz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


One of the key events in cancer development is the ability of tumor cells to overcome nutrient deprivation and hypoxia. Among proteins performing metabolic adaptation to the various cellular nutrient conditions, liver kinase B 1 (LKB1) and its main downstream target adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase α (AMPKα) are important sensors of energy requirements within the cell. Although LKB1 was originally described as a tumor suppressor, given its role in metabolism, it potentially acts as a double-edged sword. AMPKα, a master regulator of cell energy demands, is activated when ATP level drops under a certain threshold, responding accordingly through its downstream targets. Twelve downstream kinase targets of LKB1 have been described as AMPKα-like proteins. This group is comprised of novel (nua) kinase family (NUAK) kinases (NUAK1 and 2) linked to cell cycle progression and ultraviolet (UV)-damage; microtubule affinity regulating kinases (MARKs) (MARK1, MARK2, MARK3, and MARK4) that are involved in cell polarity; salt inducible kinases (SIK) (SIK1, SIK2, also known as Qin-induced kinase or QIK and SIK3) that are implicated in cell metabolism and adipose tissue development and mitotic regulation; maternal embryonic leuzine zipper kinase (MELK) that regulate oocyte maturation; and finally brain selective kinases (BRSKs) (BRSK1 and 2), which have been mainly characterized in the brain due to their role in neuronal polarization. Thus, many efforts have been made in order to harness LKB1 kinase and its downstream targets as a possible therapeutic hub in tumor development and propagation. In this review, we describe LKB1 and its downstream target AMPK summarize major functions of various AMPK-like proteins, while focusing on biological functions of BRSK1 and 2 in different models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-662
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature.


  • AMPKα
  • BRSK1
  • BRSK2
  • LKB1
  • Understudied kinases

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review


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