The regulation of AMP-activated protein kinase by vascular endothelial growth factor

Heathcote, Helen Rachel (2016) The regulation of AMP-activated protein kinase by vascular endothelial growth factor. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2016HeathcotePhD.pdf] PDF
Download (6MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


The function of the vascular endothelium is to maintain vascular homeostasis, by providing an anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory interface between circulating blood and the vessel wall, meanwhile facilitating the selective passage of blood components such as signaling molecules and immune cells. Dysfunction of the vascular endothelium is implicated in a number of pathological states including atherosclerosis and hypertension, and is thought to precede atherogenesis by a number of years. Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) is a crucial mitogenic signaling molecule, not only essential for embryonic development, but also in the adult for regulating both physiological and pathological angiogenesis. Previous studies by our laboratory have demonstrated that VEGF-A activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), the downstream component of a signaling cascade important in the regulation of whole body and cellular energy status. Furthermore, studies in our laboratory have indicated that AMPK is essential for VEGF-A-stimulated vascular endothelial cell proliferation. AMPK activation typically stimulates anabolic processes and inhibits catabolic processes including cell proliferation, with the ultimate aim of redressing energy imbalance, and as such is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of obesity, metabolic syndromes, and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic diseases are associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes and AMPK activation is reported to have beneficial effects on the vascular endothelium. The mechanism by which VEGF-A stimulates AMPK, and the functional consequences of VEGF-A-stimulated AMPK activation remain uncertain.
The present study therefore aimed to identify the specific mechanism(s) by which VEGF-A regulates the activity of AMPK in endothelial cells, and how this might differ from the activation of AMPK by other agents. Furthermore, the role of AMPK in the pro-proliferative actions of VEGF-A was further examined. Human aortic and umbilical vein endothelial cells were therefore used as a model system to characterise the specific effect(s) of VEGF-A stimulation on AMPK activation.
The present study reports that AMPK α1 containing AMPK complexes account for the vast majority of both basal and VEGF-A-stimulated AMPK activity. Furthermore, AMPK α1 is localized to the endoplasmic reticulum when sub-confluent, but translocated to the Golgi apparatus when cells are cultured to confluence. AMPK α2 appears to be associated with a structural cellular component, but neither α1 nor α2 complexes appear to translocate in response to VEGF-A stimulation. The present study confirms previous reports that when measured using the MTS cell proliferation assay, AMPK is required for VEGF-A-stimulated endothelial cell proliferation. However, parallel experiments measuring cell proliferation using the Real-Time Cell Analyzer xCELLigence system, do not agree with these previous reports, suggesting that AMPK may in fact be required for an aspect of mitochondrial metabolism which is enhanced by VEGF-A. Studies into the mitochondrial activity of endothelial cells have proved inconclusive at this time, but further studies into this are warranted.
During previous studies in our laboratory, it was suggested that VEGF-A-stimulated AMPK activation may be mediated via the diacylglycerol (DAG)-sensitive transient receptor potential cation channel (TRPCs -3, -6 or -7) family of ion channels. The present study can neither confirm, nor exclude the expression of TRPCs in vascular endothelial cells, nor rule out their involvement in VEGF-A-stimulated AMPK activation; more specific investigative tools are required in order to characterise their involvement. Furthermore, nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NAADP)-stimulated Ca2+ release from acidic intracellular organelles is not required for AMPK activation by VEGF-A.
Despite what is known about the mechanisms by which AMPK is activated, far less is known concerning the downregulation of AMPK activity, as observed in human and animal models of metabolic disease. Phosphorylation of AMPK α1 Ser485 (α2 Ser491) has recently been characterised as a mechanism by which the activity of AMPK is negatively regulated. We report here for the first time that VEGF-A stimulates AMPK α1 Ser485 phosphorylation independently of the previously reported AMPK α1 Ser485 kinases Akt (protein kinase B) and ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2). Furthermore, inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC), the activity of which is reported to be elevated in metabolic disease, attenuates VEGF-A- and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-stimulated AMPK α1 Ser485 phosphorylation, and increases basal AMPK activity. In contrast to this, PKC activation reduces AMPK activity in human vascular endothelial cells. Attempts to identify the PKC isoform responsible for inhibiting AMPK activity suggest that it is one (or more) of the Ca2+-regulated DAG-sensitive isoforms of PKC, however cross regulation of PKC isoform expression has limited the present study. Furthermore, AMPK α1 Ser485 phosphorylation was inversely correlated with human muscle insulin sensitivity. As such, enhanced AMPK α1 Ser485 phosphorylation, potentially mediated by increased PKC activation may help explain some of the reduced AMPK activity observed in metabolic disease.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: AMP-activated protein kinase, AMPK, vascualar endothelial growth factor, VEGF, endothelium.
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health
Funder's Name: British Heart Foundation (BHF)
Supervisor's Name: Salt, Dr. Ian and Gould, Prof. Gwyn
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Helen Heathcote
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7375
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2016 15:13
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2019 14:33

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year