Calcineurin is a serine/threonine phosphatase involved in a wide range of cellular responses to calcium mobilizing signals. Previous evidence supports the notion of the existence of a redox regulation of this enzyme, which might be relevant for neurodegenerative processes, where an imbalance between generation and removal of reactive oxygen species could occur. In a recent work, we have observed that calcineurin activity is depressed in two models for familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) associated with mutations of the antioxidant enzyme Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1), namely in neuroblastoma cells expressing either SOD1 mutant G93A or mutant H46R and in brain areas from G93A transgenic mice.
In this work we report that while wild-type SOD1 has a protective effect, calcineurin is oxidatively inactivated by mutant SOD1s in vitro; this inactivation is mediated by reactive oxygen species and can be reverted by addition of reducing agents. Furthermore, we show that calcineurin is sensitive to oxidation only when it is in an ‘open’, calcium-activated conformation, and that G93A-SOD1 must have its redox-active copper site available to substrates in order to exert its pro-oxidant properties on calcineurin. These findings demonstrate that both wild-type and mutant SOD1s can interfere directly with calcineurin activity and further support the possibility of a relevant role for calcineurin-regulated biochemical pathways in the pathogenesis of FALS.