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Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1996 Sep;80(3 Pt 2):S40-5.

The mechanism of action of cyclosporin A and FK506.

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Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5428, USA.


The immunosuppressants cyclosporin A (CsA), FK506, and rapamycin suppress the immune response by inhibiting evolutionary conserved signal transduction pathways. CsA, FK506, and rapamycin bind to their intracellular receptors, immunophilins, creating composite surfaces that block the activity of specific targets. For CsA/cyclophilin and FK506/FKBP the target is calcineurin. Because of the large surface area of interaction of the drug-immunophilin complex with calcineurin, FK506 and CsA have a specificity for their biologic targets that is equivalent to growth factor-receptor interactions. To date, all the therapeutic as well as toxic effects of these drugs have been shown to be due to inhibition of calcineurin. Inhibition of the action of calcineurin results in a complete block in the translocation of the cytosolic component of the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NF-AT), resulting in a failure to activate the genes regulated by the NF-AT transcription factor. These genes include those required for B-cell help such as interleukin (IL-4) and CD40 ligand as well as those necessary for T-cell proliferation such as IL-2. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the means by which these drugs produce immunosuppression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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