The protein encoded by this gene belongs to the ser/thr protein kinase family. It is the catalytic subunit of the 5'-prime-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is a cellular energy sensor conserved in all eukaryotic cells. The kinase activity of AMPK is activated by the stimuli that increase the cellular AMP/ATP ratio. AMPK regulates the activities of a number of key metabolic enzymes through phosphorylation. It protects cells from stresses that cause ATP depletion by switching off ATP-consuming biosynthetic pathways. Alternatively spliced transcript variants encoding distinct isoforms have been observed. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008].