Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

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Advisor/Committee Chair

Pramod Dash, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Raymond Grill, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew Bean, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nobuhide Kobori, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Seifert, Ph.D.


Each year, 150 million people sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI results in life-long cognitive impairments for many survivors. One observed pathological alteration following TBI are changes in glucose metabolism. Altered glucose uptake occurs in the periphery as well as in the nervous system, with an acute increase in glucose uptake, followed by a prolonged metabolic suppression. Chronic, persistent suppression of brain glucose uptake occurs in TBI patients experiencing memory loss. Abberant post-injury activation of energy-sensing signaling cascades could result in perturbed cellular metabolism. AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) is a kinase that senses low ATP levels, and promotes efficient cell energy usage. AMPK promotes energy production through increasing glucose uptake via glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4). When AMPK is activated, it phosphorylates Akt Substrate of 160 kDa (AS160), a Rab GTPase activating protein that controls Glut4 translocation. Additionally, AMPK negatively regulates energy-consumption by inhibiting protein synthesis via the mechanistic Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) pathway.

Given that metabolic suppression has been observed post-injury, we hypothesized that activity of the AMPK pathway is transiently decreased. As AMPK activation increases energy efficiency of the cell, we proposed that increasing AMPK activity to combat the post-injury energy crisis would improve cognitive outcome. Additionally, we expected that inhibiting AMPK targets would be detrimental. We first investigated the role of an existing state of hyperglycemia on TBI outcome, as hyperglycemia correlates with increased mortality and decreased cognitive outcome in clinical studies. Inducing hyperglycemia had no effect on outcome; however, we discovered that AMPK and AS160 phosphorylation were altered post-injury. We conducted vii work to characterize this period of AMPK suppression and found that AMPK phosphorylation was significantly decreased in the hippocampus and cortex between 24 hours and 3 days post-injury, and phosphorylation of its downstream targets was consistently altered. Based on this period of observed decreased AMPK activity, we administered an AMPK activator post-injury, and this improved cognitive outcome. Finally, to examine whether AMPK-regulated target Glut4 is involved in post-injury glucose metabolism, we applied an inhibitor and found this treatment impaired post-injury cognitive function. This work is significant, as AMPK activation may represent a new TBI therapeutic target.


Traumatic Brain Injury, AMPK, GLUT4, metabolism and cognition