AMPK Activation Restores Salivary Function Following Radiation Treatment

  • Rachel K. Meyer (Creator)
  • Kristy E. Gilman (Creator)
  • B. A. Rheinheimer (Creator)
  • Lauren Meeks (Creator)
  • Kirsten H Limesand (Creator)
  • R.K. Meyer (Creator)
  • K.H. Limesand (Creator)



Head and neck cancers represent a significant portion of cancer diagnoses, with head and neck cancer incidence increasing in some parts of the world. Typical treatment of early-stage head and neck cancers includes either surgery or radiotherapy; however, advanced cases often require surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Salivary gland damage following radiotherapy leads to severe and chronic hypofunction with decreased salivary output, xerostomia, impaired ability to chew and swallow, increased risk of developing oral mucositis, and malnutrition. There is currently no standard of care for radiation-induced salivary gland dysfunction, and treatment is often limited to palliative treatment that provides only temporary relief. Adenosine monophosphate (AMP)–activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme that activates catabolic processes and has been shown to influence the cell cycle, proliferation, and autophagy. In the present study, we found that radiation (IR) treatment decreases tissue levels of phosphorylated AMPK following radiation and decreases intracellular NAD+ and AMP while increasing intracellular adenosine triphosphate. Furthermore, expression of sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and nicotinamide phosphoribosyl transferase (NAMPT) was lower 5 d following IR. Treatment with AMPK activators, 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide (AICAR) and metformin, attenuated compensatory proliferation (days 6, 7, and 30) following IR and reversed chronic (day 30) salivary gland dysfunction post-IR. In addition, treatment with metformin or AICAR increased markers of apical/basolateral polarity (phosphorylated aPKCζT560-positive area) and differentiation (amylase-positive area) within irradiated parotid glands to levels similar to untreated controls. Taken together, these data suggest that AMPK may be a novel therapeutic target for treatment of radiation-induced salivary damage.
Date made available2023
PublisherSAGE Journals

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