AICAR induces Nrf2 activation by an AMPK-independent mechanism in hepatocarcinoma cells

Brice Sid, Manuel Valenzuela, Guillaume Rommelaere, Nicolas Dejeans, Mustapha Najimi, Patricia Renard, Julien Verrax, Pedro Buc Calderon

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Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most frequent tumor types worldwide and oxidative stress represents a major risk factor in pathogenesis of liver diseases leading to HCC. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) is a transcription factor activated by oxidative stress that governs the expression of many genes which constitute the antioxidant defenses of the cell. In addition, oxidative stress activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which has emerged in recent years as a kinase that controls the redox-state of the cell. Since both AMPK and Nrf2 are involved in redox homeostasis, we investigated whether there was a crosstalk between the both signaling systems in hepatocarcinoma cells. Here, we demonstrated that AMPK activator AICAR, in contrary to the A769662 allosteric activator, induces Nrf2 activation and concomitantly modulates the basal redox state of the hepatocarcinoma cells. When the expression of Nrf2 is knocked down, AICAR failed to induce its effect on redox state. These data highlight a major role of Nrf2 signaling pathway in mediating the AICAR effect on basal oxidative state. Furthermore, we demonstrated that AICAR metabolization by the cell is required to induce Nrf2 activation while, the silencing of AMPK does not have any effect on Nrf2 activation. This suggests that AICAR-induced Nrf2 activation is independent of AMPK activity. In conclusion, we identified AICAR as a potent modulator of the redox state of human hepatocarcinoma cells, via the Nrf2 signaling pathway and in an AMPK-independent mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-180
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2014


  • AMPK
  • Hepatocarcinoma cells
  • Nrf2
  • Redox homeostasis


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