Neuroimmunophilins: A novel drug therapy for the reversal of neurodegenerative disease?

M. O. Poulter, K. B. Payne, J. P. Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Neuroimmunophilin ligands (NILs) are drugs derived from the immunosuppressant FK506 (tacrolimus) that have been shown to have variable efficacy in reversing neuronal degeneration and preventing cell death. In a wide range of animal models mimicking Parkinson's disease, dementia and even surgical nerve damage they induce re-sprouting, are neurotrophic or prevent nerve damage. The neurotrophic mechanism of action of these compounds is not known and may be dependent on the type of damage and genetic variability at the species or cellular level. Some evidence suggests that NILs may act through a family of proteins called FK506 binding proteins, some of which may regulate steroid hormone receptors. Other evidence suggests that NILs may protect neurons by upregulating the antioxidant glutathione and stimulating nerve regrowth by inducing the production of neurotrophic factors. Initial clinical trials have had mixed success. In one, patients with moderately severe Parkinson's disease showed no overall improvement in fine motor skills following 6 months of treatment by the neuroimmunophilin GPI 1485. But these patients did exhibit decreased loss of dopaminergic nerve terminals with a low dose of GPI 1485 and in fact some increase in dopaminergic terminals within 6 months of the higher dose of GPI 1485 drug treatment. As a result, a second phase II clinical trial using a patient population with less severe degeneration has been initiated concurrent with an investigation of GPI 1485 and other neuroprotective therapies funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Another clinical trial ongoing at this time is exploring the use of a neuroimmunophilin ligand to prevent nerve degeneration and erectile dysfunction resulting from prostatectomy. In summary, neuroimmunophilins show promise to reverse some forms of neurodegeneration but exact factors that predict outcome have not been identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Parkinson's disease
  • axon regrowth
  • clinical trials
  • neuroimmuophilins
  • neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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