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Chemical genetics to identify NFAT inhibitors: Potential of targeting calcium mobilization in immunosuppression

By Natarajan Venkatesh, Yan Feng, Brian DeDecker, Patrick Yacono, David Golan, Timothy Mitchison and Frank McKeon


The development of more selective immunosuppressive agents to mitigate transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases requires effective strategies of blocking signaling pathways in T cells. Current immunosuppressive strategies use cyclosporin A (CsA) or FK506 to inhibit calcineurin, which dephosphorylates and promotes the nuclear import of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) transcription factors. These nuclear NFATs then transactivate cytokine genes that regulate proliferative responses of T cells. Both CsA and FK506 have debilitating side effects, including nephrotoxicity, hypertension, diabetes, and seizures, that argue for the development of alternative or complementary agents. To this end, we developed cell-based assays for monitoring NFAT dynamics in nonlymphoid cells to identify small molecules that inhibit NFAT nuclear import. Interestingly, we found that the majority of these small molecules suppress NFAT signaling by interfering with “capacitative” or “store-operated” calcium mobilization, thus raising the possibility that such mobilization processes are relevant targets in immunosuppression therapy. Further, these small molecules also show dose-dependent suppression of cytokine gene expression in T cells. Significantly, the IC(50) of CsA in primary T cells was reduced by the addition of suboptimal concentrations of these compounds, suggesting the possibility that such small molecules, in combination with CsA, offer safer means of immunosuppression

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1073/pnas.0402803101
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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