Biochemical pharmacology

Apoptolidins A and C activate AMPK in metabolically sensitive cell types and are mechanistically distinct from oligomycin A.

PMID 25511868


Apoptolidin A was first isolated as a secondary metabolite of a Nocardiopsis sp. and is the founding member of a family of potential selective cancer cell toxins. We now report the isolation, production and pharmacological characterization of apoptolidins A and C from an alternate actinomycete producer, an Amycolatopsis sp. from soil samples collected in Indonesia. We investigated the action of apoptolidins A and C in representative human glioblastoma cells, lung cancer cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) to better understand the mechanism of action of the known apoptolidins. Shifts in cellular metabolism in intact cells and the status of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) stress pathway in response to apoptolidin A were entirely consistent with the actions of an ATP synthase inhibitor. We find the metabolic phenotype of the cell to be a critical determinant of apoptolidin sensitivity and the likely basis for cancer cell selectivity. The apoptolidins induce indirect activation of AMPK and trigger autophagy in sensitive cell types without significant inhibition of mTORC1. Human U87-MG glioblastoma cells and wild type MEFs showed increased phosphorylation of AMPK (Thr172), ACC (Ser79) and ULK1 (Ser555), whereas AMPKα-null MEFs and more glycolytic SF-295 glioblastoma cells lacked this response. Although both are reported to be selective inhibitors of mitochondrial ATP synthase, differences between apoptolidin- and oligomycin A-induced responses in cells indicate that the action of these macrolides is not identical.