Opera Medica et Physiologica

Francesca Rocchio

From Pathology to Physiology of Calcineurin Signalling in Astrocytes


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Astrocytes perform fundamental housekeeping functions in the central nervous system and through bidirectional communication with neurons are thought to coordinate synaptic transmission and plasticity. They are also renowned actors in brain pathology. Reactive gliosis and neuroinflammation are featured by many (if not all) acute and chronic neurodegenerative pathologies including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The Ca2+/calmodulin-activated phosphatase calcineurin (CaN) plays a central role in the pathology-related changes of astroglial cells mainly through activation of the inflammation-related transcription factors Nuclear Factor of Activated T-cells (NFAT) and Nuclear Factor kB (NF-kB). In this contribution we focus on the mechanistic aspects of CaN signalling in astrocytes. We analyze the astroglial Ca2+ signalling toolkit in the context of Ca2+ signals necessary for CaN activation and focus on the astroglial CaN signalling through its direct target, NFAT, as well as the intricate relationships between CaN and NF-kB activation pathways.The majority of data about CaN-mediated signalling in astrocytes point to the role for CaN in pathology-related conditions while very little is currently known about signalling and function of astroglial CaN in physiology.

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