The role of Epac proteins, novel cAMP mediators, in the regulation of immune, lung and neuronal function


Martina Schmidt, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, University of Groningen, A. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Chronic degenerative inflammatory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Alzheimer's dementia, afflict millions of people around the world, causing death and debilitation. Despite the global impact of these diseases, there have been few innovative breakthroughs into their cause, treatment or cure. As with many debilitating disorders, chronic degenerative inflammatory diseases may be associated with defective or dysfunctional responses to second messengers, such as cyclic adenosinemonophosphate (cAMP). The identification of the cAMP-activated guanine nucleotide exchange factors for Ras-like GTPases, Epac1 (also known as cAMP-GEF-I) and Epac2 (also known as cAMP-GEF-II), profoundly altered the prevailing assumptions concerning cAMP signalling, which until then had been solely associated with protein kinase A (PKA). Studies of the molecular mechanisms of Epac-related signalling have demonstrated that these novel cAMP sensors regulate many physiological processes either alone and/or in concert with PKA. These include calcium handling, cardiac and smooth muscle contraction, learning and memory, cell proliferation and differentiation, apoptosis, and inflammation. The diverse signalling properties of cAMP might be explained by spatio-temporal compartmentalization, as well as A-kinase anchoring proteins, which seem to coordinate Epac signalling networks. Future research should focus on the Epac-regulated dynamics of cAMP, and, hopefully, the development of compounds that specifically interfere with the Epac signalling system in order to determine the precise significance of Epac proteins in chronic degenerative inflammatory disorders.