Calcineurin (protein phosphatase 3, Cn) is best known for its central position in Ca2+-dependent T-cell signaling. Interest in calcineurin has, however, conserved its momentum as new Ca2+-dependent pathways have been steadily surfacing in several other cell types, such as brain, heart, skin cells and beta pancreatic cells, and Cn appears to serve as a central controller of stress, immune response, and cellular proliferation and differentiation. Calcineurin is the principal target of the immunosuppressive drugs cyclosporin A (CsA) and tacrolimus (TRL). Therapy based on these immunosuppressants has markedly reduced the incidence of transplant rejection in allograft recipients. In addition, these drugs have proven very useful for patients suffering from chronic inflammatory skin conditions. Unfortunately, their application is somewhat limited by a broad spectrum of toxic side-effects, affecting several organ systems. This calls for enhancements in the design of this class of immunosuppressants. An intricate constellation of regulatory systems allows for precise modulation and adaptation of calcineurin activity in vivo. The last few years have been very fruitful in elucidating several long-standing issues regarding the binding patterns of substrates and inhibitors to Cn. This new knowledge may enable more precise manipulation of the Ca2+-calcineurin pathway in the near future, preferably targeted towards one specific substrate or cell system. In this review, we will discuss the factors and mechanisms underlying calcineurin activity regulation and their exploitation in recent approaches towards better immunosuppressants.
Keywords: Calcineurin, immunosuppressants, NFAT, RCAN, cyclosporin A (CsA), tacrolimus (TRL), CaM-binding domain, calpain, cardiomyocytes, Cn phosphatase activity, tacrolimus, phobic CnA, immunophilin, immunophilin complexes, inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3), Cyclosporin A, pimecrolimus, lipophilicity, topology, metalloenzyme, bovine brain, glycemic control, thioredoxin, phospholipids, arachidonic acid, polyphenolic aldehyde gossypol, protein phosphatase
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