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Cardiovasc Res. 2004 Aug 15;63(3):450-7.

Interference of antihypertrophic molecules and signaling pathways with the Ca2+-calcineurin-NFAT cascade in cardiac myocytes.

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Department of Cardiology and Angiology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg Str. 1, 30625, Hannover, Germany.


Cardiac hypertrophy occurs in a number of disease states associated with chronic increases in cardiac work load. Although cardiac hypertrophy may initially represent an adaptive response of the myocardium, ultimately, it often progresses to ventricular dilatation and heart failure. Much investigation has focused on the signaling pathways controlling cardiac hypertrophy at the level of the single cardiac myocyte. One prohypertrophic pathway that has received much attention involves the ubiquitously expressed Ca2+/calmodulin-activated phosphatase calcineurin. Upon activation by Ca2+, calcineurin dephosphorylates nuclear factor of activated T cell (NFAT) transcription factors, leading to their nuclear translocation. As common in complex biological systems, cardiac hypertrophy is controlled simultaneously by stimulatory (prohypertrophic) and counter-regulatory (antihypertrophic) pathways. Given the potent prohypertrophic effects of the Ca2+-calcineurin-NFAT pathway in cardiac myocytes, it is not surprising that the activity of this pathway is tightly controlled at multiple levels. Inhibitory mechanisms upstream (nitric oxide (NO), cGMP, cGMP-dependent protein kinase type I (PKG I), heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), biliverdin, carbon monoxide (CO)) and downstream from calcineurin (glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3), c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPKs)) have been described. Moreover, several inhibitors directly target calcineurin enzymatic activity (cyclosporine A (CsA), tacrolimus (FK506), calcineurin-binding protein-1 (Cabin-1)/calcineurin-inhibitory protein (Cain), A-kinase-anchoring protein-79 (AKAP79), calcineurin B homology protein (CHP), MCIPs, VIVIT). Considering the dominant role of the calcineurin pathway in cardiac hypertrophy and failure, calcineurin-inhibitory strategies may lead to the identification of novel therapeutic approaches for patients with cardiac disease.

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