An emerging role for calcineurin Aα in the development and function of the kidney

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For many years, calcineurin has been a familiar molecule as a target of the immunosuppressive agents cyclosporin A and FK-506. Calcineurin inhibition interferes with T cell signaling by preventing activation of the transcription factor NFATc. However, calcineurin is expressed in most tissues in the body, and calcineurin inhibition undoubtedly alters many other cellular processes. As a result, serious side effects of calcineurin inhibitors regularly occur, including hypertension and renal dysfunction. Because nephrotoxicity is often a barrier to continued clinical use of calcineurin inhibitors, understanding the role of calcineurin in the kidney is of particular importance. Recent work has demonstrated that the two main isoforms of the catalytic subunit of calcineurin, Aα and Aβ, may have distinct functions, particularly in the kidney. Calcineurin isoforms may be differentially expressed, and/or the activity of each may be differentially regulated, leading to tissue-specific functions. Differences between the action of the two isoforms are most evident in knockout mice lacking each isoform. Mice lacking the β-isoform are characterized principally by altered development and function of immune cells. α-Knockout mice, in contrast, can still be immune suppressed by cyclosporin A but display pervasive developmental defects, including renal dysfunction. Therefore, it is intriguing to consider that while the β-isoform may be responsible for calcineurin action in T cells, the α-isoform may be the predominant catalytic isoform in the kidney. This conclusion, if correct, may have substantial clinical implication for novel strategies to selectively target calcineurin action in T cells without associated nephrotoxicity.

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American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology





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This article was published in American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology, Volume 290, Issue 4, Pages F769-F776.

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