FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP51) is an immunophilin physiologically expressed in lymphocytes. Very recently, aberrant expression of this protein was found in melanoma; FKBP51 expression correlates with melanoma aggressiveness and is maximal in metastatic lesions. FKBP51 promotes NF-κB activation and is involved in the resistance to genotoxic agents, including anthracyclines and ionizing radiation. FKBP51 is a cochaperone with peptidyl-prolyl isomerase activity that regulates several biological processes through protein-protein interaction. There is increasing evidence that FKBP51 hyperexpression is associated with cancer and this protein has a relevant role in sustaining cell growth, malignancy, and resistance to therapy. There is also evidence that FKBP ligands are potent anticancer agents, in addition to their immunosuppressant activity. In particular, rapamycin and its analogs have shown antitumor activity across a variety of human cancers in clinical trials. Although, classically, rapamycin actions are ascribed to inhibition of mTOR, recent studies indicate FKBP51 is also an important molecular determinant of the drugs anticancer activity. The aim of this article is to review the functions of FKBP51, especially in view of the recent findings that this protein is a potential oncogene when deregulated and a candidate target for signaling therapies against cancer.
Keywords: FKBP51, cancer, apoptosis, NF-κB, rapamycin, FK506 binding protein, immunophilin, physiologically expressed, lymphocytes, melanoma aggressiveness
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