Int J Biol Sci 2015; 11(11):1272-1280. doi:10.7150/ijbs.12108 This issue

Research Paper

AICAR and Metformin Exert AMPK-dependent Effects on INS-1E Pancreatic β-cell Apoptosis via Differential Downstream Mechanisms

Yu-Lu Dai, Su-Ling Huang, Ying Leng

State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zu Chong Zhi Road 555, Shanghai 201203, China

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Dai YL, Huang SL, Leng Y. AICAR and Metformin Exert AMPK-dependent Effects on INS-1E Pancreatic β-cell Apoptosis via Differential Downstream Mechanisms. Int J Biol Sci 2015; 11(11):1272-1280. doi:10.7150/ijbs.12108. Available from

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Graphic abstract

The role of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in pancreatic β-cell apoptosis is still controversial, and the reasons for the discrepancies have not been clarified. In the current study, we observed the effects of two well-known AMPK activators 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside (AICAR) and metformin, on apoptosis in rat insulinoma INS-1E cells, and further explored their possible mechanisms. Both AICAR and metformin protected INS-1E cells from palmitate-induced apoptosis, as reflected by decreases in both cleaved caspase 3 protein expression and caspase 3/7 activity, and these protective effects were abrogated by AMPK inhibitor compound C. The protective action of AICAR was probably mediated by the suppression of triacylglycerol accumulation, increase in Akt phosphorylation and decrease in p38 MAPK phosphorylation, while metformin might exert its protective effect on INS-1E cells by decreases in both JNK and p38 MAPK phosphorylation. All these regulations were dependent on AMPK activation. However, under standard culture condition, AICAR increased JNK phosphorylation and promoted INS-1E cell apoptosis in an AMPK-dependent manner, whereas metformin showed no effect on apoptosis. Our study revealed that AMPK activators AICAR and metformin exhibited different effects on INS-1E cell apoptosis under different culture conditions, which might be largely attributed to different downstream mediators. Our results provided new and informative clues for better understanding of the role of AMPK in β-cell apoptosis.

Keywords: AICAR, Metformin, AMPK, INS-1E cells, apoptosis