Cytosolic NUAK1 Enhances ATP Production by Maintaining Proper Glycolysis and Mitochondrial Function in Cancer Cells

Emilia Escalona, Marcelo Muñoz, Roxana Pincheira, Álvaro A. Elorza, Ariel F. Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


NUAK1 is an AMPK-related kinase located in the cytosol and the nucleus, whose expression associates with tumor malignancy and poor patient prognosis in several cancers. Accordingly, NUAK1 was associated with metastasis because it promotes cell migration and invasion in different cancer cells. Besides, NUAK1 supports cancer cell survival under metabolic stress and maintains ATP levels in hepatocarcinoma cells, suggesting a role in energy metabolism in cancer. However, the underlying mechanism for this metabolic function, as well as its link to NUAK1 subcellular localization, is unclear. We demonstrated that cytosolic NUAK1 increases ATP levels, which associates with increased mitochondrial respiration, supporting that cytosolic NUAK1 is involved in mitochondrial function regulation in cancer cells. NUAK1 inhibition led to the formation of “donut-like” structures, providing evidence of NUAK1-dependent mitochondrial morphology regulation. Additionally, our results indicated that cytosolic NUAK1 increases the glycolytic capacity of cancer cells under mitochondrial inhibition. Nuclear NUAK1 seems to be involved in the metabolic switch to glycolysis. Altogether, our results suggest that cytosolic NUAK1 participates in mitochondrial ATP production and the maintenance of proper glycolysis in cancer cells. Our current studies support the role of NUAK1 in bioenergetics, mitochondrial homeostasis, glycolysis and metabolic capacities. They suggest different metabolic outcomes depending on its subcellular localization. The identified roles of NUAK1 in cancer metabolism provide a potential mechanism relevant for tumor progression and its association with poor patient prognosis in several cancers. Further studies could shed light on the molecular mechanisms involved in the identified metabolic NUAK1 functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1123
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2020


  • cancer metabolism
  • cell bioenergetic
  • glycolytic switch
  • mitochondrial donut
  • NUAK1
  • oxidative cells
  • seahorse assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Cytosolic NUAK1 Enhances ATP Production by Maintaining Proper Glycolysis and Mitochondrial Function in Cancer Cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this