Research Perspective Volume 9, Issue 2 pp 303—314
The stress polarity pathway: AMPK 'GIV'-es protection against metabolic insults
- 1 Departments of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
received: January 15, 2017 ; accepted: February 9, 2017 ; published: February 15, 2017 ;https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101179
How to Cite
Loss of cell polarity impairs organ development and function; it can also serve as one of the first triggers for oncogenesis. In 2006-2007 two groups simultaneously reported the existence of a special pathway for maintaining epithelial polarity in the face of environmental stressors. In this pathway, AMPK, a key sensor of metabolic stress stabilizes tight junctions, preserves cell polarity, and thereby, maintains epithelial barrier functions. Accumulating evidence since has shown that pharmacologic activation of AMPK by Metformin protects the epithelial barrier against multiple environmental and pathological stressful states and suppresses tumorigenesis. How AMPK protects the epithelium remained unknown until recently Aznar et al. identified GIV/Girdin as a novel effector of AMPK at the cell-cell junctions; phosphorylation of GIV at a single site by AMPK appears to be both necessary and sufficient for strengthening tight junctions and preserving cell polarity and epithelial barrier function in the face of energetic stress. Here we review the fundamentals of this specialized signaling pathway that buttresses cell-cell junctions against stress-induced collapse and discuss its pathophysiologic relevance in the context of a variety of diseases, including cancers, diabetes, aging, and the growing list of beneficial effects of the AMPK-activator, Metformin.