It is well established that the immunosuppressive effects of cyclosporin A (CsA) and FK506 (also known as tacrolimus) are mediated through binding to their cognate cellular proteins cyclophilin and FKBP (collectively termed immunophilins), respectively. Biochemical analysis had revealed that cyclophilin-CsA and FKBP-FK506 complexes bind to and inactivate Ca2+- dependent serine / threonine phosphatase calcineurin. Since calcineurin regulates nuclear translocation and subsequent activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) transcription factors that is one of essential steps for cytokine gene expression in activated T cells, it is believed that inhibition of calcineurin is a molecular basis of the immunosuppressive properties of CsA and FK506. However, recent studies indicate that both CsA and FK506 can block activation of JNK and p38 signaling pathways during T cell activation. CsA and FK506, thus, have two distinct mechanisms of action; one is the inhibition of the protein phosphatase activity of calcineurin, leading to the blockade of the nuclear translocation of NFAT transcription factors, and the other is the suppression of JNK and p38 activation pathways. It is likely that the presence of two distinct targets in T cell activation makes CsA and FK506 highly potent immunosuppressive drugs. Here we discuss the action of immunophilin-ligand complexes on JNK and p38 activation pathways. We also argue the possibility of immunotherapeutic application targeting at JNK and p38 signaling pathways.
Keywords: mapk signaling pathways, immunophilin-ligand complex, immunosuppressive effects, cognate cellular proteins, fkbp-fk506 complexes, nuclear factor of activated T cells, immunosuppressive drugs, p38 signaling pathways