In the adult brain, programmed death of neural stem cells is considered to be critical for tissue homeostasis and cognitive function and is dysregulated in neurodegeneration. Previously, we have reported that adult rat hippocampal neural (HCN) stem cells undergo autophagic cell death (ACD) following insulin withdrawal. Because the apoptotic capability of the HCN cells was intact, our findings suggested activation of unique molecular mechanisms linking insulin withdrawal to ACD rather than apoptosis. Here, we report that phosphorylation of autophagy-associated protein p62 by AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) drives ACD and mitophagy in HCN cells. Pharmacological inhibition of AMPK or genetic ablation of the AMPK alpha 2 subunit by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 genome editing suppressed ACD, whereas AMPK activation promoted ACD in insulin-deprived HCN cells. We found that following insulin withdrawal AMPK phosphorylated p62 at a novel site, Ser-293/Ser-294 (in rat and human p62, respectively). Phosphorylated p62 translocated to mitochondria and induced mitophagy and ACD. Interestingly, p62 phosphorylation at Ser-293 was not required for staurosporine-induced apoptosis in HCN cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the direct phosphorylation of p62 by AMPK. Our data suggest that AMPK-mediated p62 phosphorylation is an ACD-specific signaling event and provide novel mechanistic insight into the molecular mechanisms in ACD.