A double negative feedback loop between MTORC1 and AMPK kinases guarantees precise autophagy induction upon cellular stress

Marianna Holczer, Bence Hajdú, Tamás Lőrincz, András Szarka, Gábor Bánhegyi, Orsolya Kapuy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular homeostasis is controlled by an evolutionary conserved cellular digestive process called autophagy. This mechanism is tightly regulated by the two sensor elements called mTORC1 and AMPK. mTORC1 is one of the master regulators of proteostasis, while AMPK maintains cellular energy homeostasis. AMPK is able to promote autophagy by phosphorylating ULK1, the key inducer of autophagosome formation, while mTORC1 downregulates the self-eating process via ULK1 under nutrient rich conditions. We claim that the feedback loops of the AMPK–mTORC1–ULK1 regulatory triangle guarantee the appropriate response mechanism when nutrient and/or energy supply changes. In our opinion, there is an essential double negative feedback loop between mTORC1 and AMPK. Namely, not only does AMPK downregulate mTORC1, but mTORC1 also inhibits AMPK and this inhibition is required to keep AMPK inactive at physiological conditions. The aim of the present study was to explore the dynamical characteristic of AMPK regulation upon various cellular stress events. We approached our scientific analysis from a systems biology perspective by incorporating both theoretical and molecular biological techniques. In this study, we confirmed that AMPK is essential to promote autophagy, but is not sufficient to maintain it. AMPK activation is followed by ULK1 induction, where protein has a key role in keeping autophagy active. ULK1-controlled autophagy is always preceded by AMPK activation. With both ULK1 depletion and mTORC1 hyper-activation (i.e., TSC1/2 downregulation), we demonstrate that a double negative feedback loop between AMPK and mTORC1 is crucial for the proper dynamic features of the control network. Our computer simulations have further proved the dynamical characteristic of AMPK–mTORC1–ULK1 controlled cellular nutrient sensing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5543
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2 2019


  • AMPK
  • Autophagy
  • Double negative feedback
  • MTOR
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry

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