AICAr is a cell-permeable nucleotide that has been used in vivo and in vitro to activate AMPK. Our previous findings have shown that AICAr as a single agent induces dose- and time-dependent growth inhibition in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cell lines. In addition, the combination of AICAr with antifolates [methotrexate (MTX) or pemetrexed] has been shown to further potentiate AMPK activation and to lead to greater cytotoxicity and growth inhibition in leukemia and other malignant cell types. Our data presented herein show that sustained endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is the predominant mechanism behind the synergistic induction of cell death by the combination of AICAr plus the inhibitor of one-carbon metabolism, MTX, in Bp- and T-ALL, as evidenced by induction of several unfolded protein response markers leading to apoptosis. We also show for the first time that AICAr in combination with MTX significantly induces Akt phosphorylation in ALL. Under these conditions, the concomitant inhibition of Akt, a cellular antagonist of AMPK, leads to further upregulation of AMPK activity and alleviates AICAr plus MTX-induced ER stress and apoptosis. Therefore, we also show that the concomitant activation of AMPK actually rescues the cells from AICAr plus MTX-induced ER stress and apoptosis. Our data suggest that the effects of AMPK activation on cell death or survival differ contextually depending on its signaling alterations with related oncogenic pathways and provide insight into the reported paradoxical proapoptotic versus prosurvival effects of AMPK activation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research