Although pathogenesis of neuronal ischemia is incompletely understood, evidence indicates apoptotic neuronal death after ischemia. Bcl-2, an anti-apoptotic and neuroprotective protein, interacts with calcineurin in non-neuronal tissues. Activation of calcineurin, which is abundant in the brain, may play a role in apoptosis. Using co-immunoprecipitation experiments in biopsy-derived, fresh human cortical and hippocampal slices, we examined possible interactions between calcineurin and Bcl-2. Calcineuin-Bcl-2 interactions increased after exposure in vitro to excitotoxic agents and conditions of hypoxia/aglycia. This interaction may shuttle calcineurin to substrates such as the inositol-1,4,5-tris-phosphate receptor because under these experimental conditions interactions between calcineurin and inositol-1,4,5-tris-phosphate receptor also increased. A specific calcineurin inhibitor, FK-520, attenuated insult-induced increases in calcineurin-Bcl-2 interactions and augmented caspase-3 like activity. These data suggest that Bcl-2 modulates neuroprotective effects of calcineurin and that calcineurin inhibitors increase ischemic neuronal damage.
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