Computational Analysis of AMPK-Mediated Neuroprotection Suggests Acute Excitotoxic Bioenergetics and Glucose Dynamics Are Regulated by a Minimal Set of Critical Reactions.
Loss of ionic homeostasis during excitotoxic stress depletes ATP levels and activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), re-establishing energy production by increased expression of glucose transporters on the plasma membrane. Here, we develop a computational model to test whether this AMPK-mediated glucose import can rapidly restore ATP levels following a transient excitotoxic insult. We demonstrate that a highly compact model, comprising a minimal set of critical reactions, can closely resemble the rapid dynamics and cell-to-cell heterogeneity of ATP levels and AMPK activity, as confirmed by single-cell fluorescence microscopy in rat primary cerebellar neurons exposed to glutamate excitotoxicity. The model further correctly predicted an excitotoxicity-induced elevation of intracellular glucose, and well resembled the delayed recovery and cell-to-cell heterogeneity of experimentally measured glucose dynamics. The model also predicted necrotic bioenergetic collapse and altered calcium dynamics following more severe excitotoxic insults. In conclusion, our data suggest that a minimal set of critical reactions may determine the acute bioenergetic response to transient excitotoxicity and that an AMPK-mediated increase in intracellular glucose may be sufficient to rapidly recover ATP levels following an excitotoxic insult.