Lausanne, Switzerland, July 17, 2014 – New research led by scientists at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) could provide a clue to combat the growing epidemic of metabolic disorders. This work makes an important contribution to the knowledge and expertise that NIHS can apply in the future to develop nutritional solutions for improving metabolic health.
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme that acts as a central molecular switch whose activation has many beneficial effects on metabolism. AMPK can be naturally activated by exercise in muscle, but if we also knew how to activate AMPK, for example, by diet, we could better control energy balance and maintain metabolic health. Regulation of AMPK is complex: it is controlled by the interplay between 3 subunits (a catalytic α subunit and regulatory β and γ subunits) and each subunit has multiple isoforms. A handful of synthetic small molecules have been reported to directly stimulate AMPK but, apart from thienopyridones (which stimulates AMPK through binding to one of the β subunit isoforms), precisely how they work has not yet been described.
Through a highly successful collaborative effort by an international team of scientists led by Prof. Kei Sakamoto and his group at NIHS, a research project was undertaken to characterise a recently identified AMPK activator. They identified a unique mechanism of action that displays a preference for a particular AMPK α-complex isoform.