Activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in endothelial cells by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) via the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) represents a pro-angiogenic pathway, whose regulation and function is incompletely understood. This study investigates whether the VEGF/AMPK pathway is regulated by cAMP-mediated signalling. We show that cAMP elevation in endothelial cells by forskolin, an activator of the adenylate cyclase, and/or 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX), an inhibitor of phosphodiesterases, triggers protein kinase A (PKA)-mediated phosphorylation of CaMKK2 (serine residues S495, S511) and AMPK (S487). Phosphorylation of CaMKK2 by PKA led to an inhibition of its activity as measured in CaMKK2 immunoprecipitates of forskolin/IBMX-treated cells. This inhibition was linked to phosphorylation of S495, since it was not seen in cells expressing a non-phosphorylatable CaMKK2 S495C mutant. Phosphorylation of S511 alone in these cells was not able to inhibit CaMKK2 activity. Moreover, phosphorylation of AMPK at S487 was not sufficient to inhibit VEGF-induced AMPK activation in cells, in which PKA-mediated CaMKK2 inhibition was prevented by expression of the CaMKK2 S495C mutant. cAMP elevation in endothelial cells reduced basal and VEGF-induced acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) phosphorylation at S79 even if AMPK was not inhibited. Together, this study reveals a novel regulatory mechanism of VEGF-induced AMPK activation by cAMP/PKA, which may explain, in part, inhibitory effects of PKA on angiogenic sprouting and play a role in balancing pro- and anti-angiogenic mechanisms in order to ensure functional angiogenesis.

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