Two muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases (UL), muscle atrophy F box (MAFbx) and muscle RING finger 1 (MuRF1), are crucial for myofibrillar protein breakdown. The insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) pathway inhibits muscle UL expression through Akt-mediated inhibition of FoxO transcription factors, while AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) promotes UL expression. The underlying cellular mechanism, however, remains obscure. In this study, the effect of AMPK and its interaction with IGF-1 on ubiquitin ligases expression was investigated. C2C12 myotubes were treated with 0, 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0 mM 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR) in the presence or absence of 50 ng/ml IGF-1. IGF-1 activated Akt, which enhanced phosphorlytion of FoxO3a at Thr 318/321 and reduced the expression of UL. Intriguingly, though activation of AMPK by 0.3 and 1.0 mM AICAR synergized IGF-1-induced Akt activation, the expression of UL was not attenuated, but strengthened by AMPK activation. AICAR treatment decreased FoxO3a phosphorylation at 318/321 in the cytoplasm and induced FoxO3 nuclear relocation. mTOR inhibition increased basal MAFbx expression and reversed the inhibitory effect of IGF-1 on UL expression. In conclusion, our data show that AMPK activation by AICAR stimulates UL expression despite the activation of Akt signaling, which may be due to the possible antagonistic effect of FoxO phosphorylation by AMPK on phosphorylation by Akt. In addition, AMPK inhibition of mTOR may provide an additional explanation for the enhancement of UL expression by AMPK. J. Cell. Biochem. 108: 458–468, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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