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The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) αβγ heterotrimer regulates cellular energy homeostasis with tissue-specific isoform distribution. Small-molecule activation of skeletal muscle α2β2 AMPK complexes may prove a valuable treatment strategy for type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Herein, we report the small-molecule SC4 is a potent, direct AMPK activator that preferentially activates α2 complexes and stimulates skeletal muscle glucose uptake. In parallel with the term secretagog, we propose “importagog” to define a substance that induces or augments cellular uptake of another substance. Three-dimensional structures of the glucose importagog SC4 bound to activated α2β2γ1 and α2β1γ1 complexes reveal binding determinants, in particular a key interaction between the SC4 imidazopyridine 4′-nitrogen and β2-Asp111, which provide a design paradigm for β2-AMPK therapeutics. The α2β2γ1/SC4 structure reveals an interaction between a β2 N-terminal α helix and the α2 autoinhibitory domain. Our results provide a structure-function guide to accelerate development of potent, but importantly tissue-specific, β2-AMPK therapeutics. Therapeutic activation of the metabolic regulator AMPK in skeletal muscle is a validated strategy to combat type 2 diabetes. Ngoei et al. have solved the crystal structure of the activator SC4complexed to a skeletal muscle AMPK isoform, identifying important binding determinants that will advance development of AMPK-targeting therapeutics.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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