Immunophilin FK506-binding protein 52 (not FK506-binding protein 12) mediates the neurotrophic action of FK506

Bruce G. Gold, Valerie Densmore, Weinian Shou, Martin M. Matzuk, Heidi S. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

213 Scopus citations


The neurotrophic property of the immunosuppressant drug FK506 (tacrolimus) is believed to depend on the 12-kDa FK506-binding protein (FKBP- 12). Here, we show that FK506 maintains its neurotrophic activity in primary hippocampal cell cultures from FKBP-12 knockout mice. In human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells, the neurotrophic action of FK506 (10 pM to 10 nM) is completely prevented by the addition of a monoclonal antibody (50-100 nM) to the immunophilin FKBP-52 (also known as FKBP-59 or heat shock protein 56), a component of mature steroid receptor complexes. By itself, the FKBP-52 antibody is also neurotrophic. The neurotrophic activity of dexamethasone (50 nM) is potentiated by FK506, whereas that of β-estradiol (50 nM) is not altered, suggesting a common mechanisms of action. Geldanamycin (which disrupts mature steroid receptor complexes) is also neurotrophic (0.1-10 nM), whereas it reduces the neurotrophic activity of FK506 and steroid hormones (dexamethasone and β-estradiol). Conversely, 20 mM molybdate (which prevents the disruption of mature steroid receptor complexes) decreases the neurotrophic activity of FK506, FKBP-52 antibody, dexamethasone, and β- estradiol. In rats, FK506 (10 mg/kg s.c.) augments the regenerative response of regenerating motor and sensory neurons to nerve injury as shown by its ability to increase the axotomy-induced induction of c-jun expression. A model is proposed to account for the neurotrophic action of both neuroimmunophilin ligands (FK506) and steroid hormones. Components of steroid receptor complexes represent novel targets for the rational design of new neurotrophic drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1202-1210
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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