A novel macrolide antibiotic, FK-506, isolated from Streptomyces tsukubaensis, has been shown to be a potent immunosuppressive agent in vivo and in vitro. FK-506 shares a number of immunosuppressive properties with the cyclic peptide, cyclosporin A (CsA), although 10 to 100 times more potent in this regard. These similarities suggest that both agents may share a similar mechanism(s) of action at the biochemical level. We have identified a cytoplasmic binding protein for FK-506 in the human T cell line, JURKAT, using [3H]FK-506. The FK-506 binding protein has a mr of 10 to 12 kDa (as determined by gel filtration), is heat stable and does not bind CsA. This contrasts with the CsA binding protein, cyclophilin, in that cyclophilin is heat labile and has a mr of 15 to 17 kDa. Our data suggest that FK-506 binds to a low m.w. protein(s) in JURKAT cells, which is distinct from cyclophilin. This protein may mediate the immunosuppressive effects of FK-506 in T cells. In addition, our results suggest that the immunosuppressive activity of FK-506, as with CsA, is mediated by an intracellular mechanism.

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