Metabolic preconditioning of cells with AICAR-riboside : improved cryopreservation and cell-type specific impacts on energetics and proliferation.

Document Type


Publication Date





In species whose evolutionary history has provided natural tolerance to dehydration and freezing, metabolic depression is often a pre-requisite for survival. We tested the hypothesis that preconditioning of mammalian cells with 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-b-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR) to achieve metabolic depression will promote greater survivorship during cryopreservation. AICAR is used extensively to stimulate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which can result in downregulation of biosynthetic processes. We showed that the metabolic interconversion of AICAR was cell-type dependent. Accumulation of 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1b-D-ribofuranosyl-5′-monophosphate (ZMP), as well as other metabolites that possess multiple phosphates (i.e., ZDP, ZTP), varied approximately 3.5-fold across the cell lines tested. AICAR treatment also significantly influenced the concentrations of cellular adenylates (ATP, ADP, AMP). Depression of cell metabolism and proliferation with AICAR treatment differed among cell lines. Proliferation for a given cell line was negatively correlated with the fold-increase achieved in the ‘effective adenylate ratio’ ([AMP]+[ZMP])/[ATP]) after AICAR treatment. Metabolic preconditioning with AICAR promoted a significant increase in viability post-freezing in J774.A1 macrophages, HepG2/C3A cells and primary hepatocytes but not in NIH/3T3 fibroblasts or OMK cells. The effect of AICAR on viability after freezing was positively correlated (r2 = 0.94) with the fold-increase in the ‘effective adenylate ratio’. Thus for each cell line, the greater the depression of metabolism and proliferation due to preconditioning with AICAR, the greater was the survivorship post-freezing.


This article is copyright 2011 Cryobiology and is available at