The role of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) cascade in the glucose-sensitive pancreatic β cell lines HIT-T15 and INS-1 was addressed. In both cell types, removal of glucose leads to a > 5-fold activation of AMPK activity. Activation of AMPK was due to phosphorylation, since the effect was reversed by protein phosphatase treatment of the extracts, and was restored by re-addition of MgATP and the purified upstream kinase. When the effects of different concentrations of medium glucose were examined, insulin secretion and AMPK activity were inversely related, and varied over the same concentration range. The activation in response to glucose removal appeared to be due to changes in the concentration of the known regulators of the cascade, i.e. AMP and ATP, since AMPK activation was associated with a large increase in the cellular AMP/ATP ratio, and the two parameters varied over the same range of glucose concentrations. In late-passage HIT-T15 cells that had lost the glucose-dependent insulin secretion response, both AMPK activity and the AMP/ATP ratio also became insensitive to the extracellular glucose concentration. Treatment of INS-1 cells, but not HIT-T15 cells, with AICA riboside (5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide riboside) results in accumulation of the ribotide, ZMP (AICA riboside monophosphate), and activation of AMPK. AICA riboside treatment of INS-1 cells, and of isolated rat islets, had both inhibitory and stimulatory effects on insulin secretion. These results show that in β cell lines the AMP-activated protein kinase, like its yeast homologue the SNF1 complex, can respond to the level of glucose in the medium, and may be involved in regulating insulin release.

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