Maintaining proper energy levels in brain neurons is crucial for many cerebral functions such as synaptic transmission, vesicle recycling and axonal transport. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the main energy sensor of all living cells. Beside its role as a crucial whole-body energy sensor in hypothalamic neurons, AMPK is also expressed in neurons throughout the brain where it might play additional fundamental roles. For instance, AMPK might be involved in brain development, neuronal polarization and neuronal activity. In addition, recent evidences suggest that AMPK deregulation might participate in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and ischemic stroke. Therefore, AMPK is emerging as a potential therapeutic target for these neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we will review the recent literature regarding the physiological and pathological role of AMPK in the brain and discuss the resulting potential therapeutic implications.
Keywords: AMPK, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ischemic stroke, neurodegeneration, neuronal development.