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Biochem J. Oct 15, 2002; 367(Pt 2): 459–466.
PMCID: PMC1222895

Novel human ZAKI-4 isoforms: hormonal and tissue-specific regulation and function as calcineurin inhibitors.


We identified a thyroid hormone [3,5,3'-tri-iodothyronine (T(3))]-responsive gene, ZAKI-4, in cultured human skin fibroblasts. It belongs to a family of genes that encode proteins containing a conserved motif. The motif binds to calcineurin and inhibits its phosphatase activity. In the present study, we have demonstrated three different ZAKI-4 transcripts, alpha, beta1 and beta2, in human brain by 5'- and 3'-RACE (rapid amplification of cDNA ends). The alpha transcript was identical with the one that we originally cloned from human fibroblasts and the other two are novel. The three transcripts are generated by alternative initiation and splicing from a single gene on the short arm of chromosome 6. It is predicted that beta1 and beta2 encode an identical protein product, beta, which differs from alpha in its N-terminus. Since alpha and beta contain an identical C-terminal region harbouring the conserved motif, both isoforms are suggested to inhibit calcineurin activity. Indeed, each isoform associates with calcineurin A and inhibits its activity in a similar manner, suggesting that the difference in N-terminus of each isoform does not affect the inhibitory function on calcineurin. An examination of the expression profile of the three transcripts in 12 human tissues revealed that the alpha transcript is expressed exclusively in the brain, whereas beta transcripts are expressed ubiquitously, most abundantly in brain, heart, skeletal muscle and kidney. It was also demonstrated that human skin fibroblasts express both alpha and beta transcripts, raising the question of which transcript is up-regulated by T(3). It was revealed that T(3) markedly induced the expression of alpha isoform but not of beta. This T(3)-mediated increase in the alpha isoform was associated with a significant decrease in endogenous calcineurin activity. These results suggest that the expression of ZAKI-4 isoforms is subjected to distinct hormonal as well as tissue-specific regulation, constituting a complex signalling network through inhibition of calcineurin.

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