The neuronal and endocrine roles of RCAN1 in health and disease

Heshan Peiris, Damien J. Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The regulator of calcineurin 1 (RCAN1) was first discovered as a gene located on human chromosome 21, expressed in neurons and overexpressed in the brains of Down syndrome individuals. Increased expression of RCAN1 has been linked with not only Down syndrome-associated pathology but also an associated neurological disorder, Alzheimer's Disease, in which neuronal RCAN1 expression is also increased. RCAN1 has additionally been demonstrated to affect other cell types including endocrine cells, with links to the pathogenesis of β-cell dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. The primary functions of RCAN1 relate to the inhibition of the phosphatase calcineurin, and to the regulation of mitochondrial function. Various forms of cellular stress such as reactive oxygen species and hyperglycaemia cause transient increases in RCAN1 expression. The short term (hours to days) induction of RCAN1 expression is generally thought to have a protective effect by regulating the expression of pro-survival genes in multiple cell types, many of which are mediated via the calcineurin/NFAT transcriptional pathway. However, strong evidence also supports the notion that chronic (weeks-years) overexpression of RCAN1 has a detrimental effect on cells and that this may drive pathophysiological changes in neurons and endocrine cells linked to Down syndrome, Alzheimer's Disease and type 2 diabetes. Here we review the evidence related to these roles of RCAN1 in neurons and endocrine cells and their relationship to these human health disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-383
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
EventAuPS/ASB Annual Conference -
Duration: 4 Dec 2016 → …


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • beta cells
  • Down syndrome
  • insulin secretion
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • neurons
  • pancreas
  • RCAN1
  • type 2 diabetes


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