Calcineurin is associated with the cytoskeleton of cultured neurons and has a role in the acquisition of polarity

Adriana Ferreira*, Randall Kincaid, Kenneth S. Kosik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Calcineurin is a calmodulin-dependent serine-threonine phosphatase found in many cell types but most abundant in neurons. To determine its localization in developing neurons, dissociated cultures from embryonic day 15 rat cerebellum were analyzed immunocytochemically after treatment with cytoskeletal-disrupting drugs. During the initial outgrowth of neurites, calcineurin is enriched in growth cones where its localization depends upon the integrity of both microtubules and actin filaments. Treatment with cytochalasin shifts calcineurin from the growth cone to the neurite shaft, and with nocadozole calcineurin translocates to the cell body. Therefore calcineurin is well positioned to mediate interactions between cytoskeletal systems during neurite elongation. By 14 d in culture, when the neurons have developed extensive neuronal contacts and synapses are present, calcineurin is predominantly in the neurite shaft. Incubation of cultured cells with Cyclosporin A or a specific peptide, both of which selectively inhibit calcineurin's phosphatase activity, prevented axonal elongation. Because the microtubule-associated protein tau appears to play a key role in asymmetric neurite elongation, we examined modifications in its phosphorylation state resulting from calcineurin inhibition. In contrast to the normal development of cerebellar macroneurons in which reactivity with the phosphorylation-dependent antibody, tau-1, progressively increases, there was a persistent inhibition of tau-1 reactivity in cells exposed to Cyclosporin A. These findings suggest a role for calcineurin in regulating tau phosphorylation and possibly modulating other steps required for the determination of polarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1238
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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