The protein encoded by this gene is a catalytic subunit of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is a heterotrimer consisting of an alpha catalytic subunit, and non-catalytic beta and gamma subunits. AMPK is an important energy-sensing enzyme that monitors cellular energy status. In response to cellular metabolic stresses, AMPK is activated, and thus phosphorylates and inactivates acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) and beta-hydroxy beta-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR), key enzymes involved in regulating de novo biosynthesis of fatty acid and cholesterol. Studies of the mouse counterpart suggest that this catalytic subunit may control whole-body insulin sensitivity and is necessary for maintaining myocardial energy homeostasis during ischemia. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008].