IKKα and IKKβ each function to regulate NF-κB activation in the TNF-induced/canonical pathway

Mazhar Adli*, Evan Merkhofer, Patricia Cogswell, Albert S. Baldwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Background: Activation of the transcription factor NF-κB by cytokines is rapid, mediated through the activation of the IKK complex with subsequent phosphorylation and degradation of the inhibitory IκB proteins. The IKK complex is comprised of two catalytic subunits, IKKα and IKKβ, and a regulatory protein known as NEMO. Using cells from mice that are genetically deficient in IKKβ or IKKα, or using a kinase inactive mutant of IKKβ, it has been proposed that IKKβ is critical for TNF-induced IκB phosphorylation/degradation through the canonical pathway while IKKα has been shown to be involved in the non-canonical pathway for NF-κB activation. These conclusions have led to a focus on development of IKKβ inhibitors for potential use in inflammatory disorders and cancer. Methodology: Analysis of NF-κB activation in response to TNF in MEFs reveals that IKKβ is essential for efficient phosphorylation and subsequent degradation of IκBα, yet IKKα contributes to the NF-κB activation response in these cells as measured via DNA binding assays. In HeLa cells, both IKKα and IKKβ contribute to IκBα phosphorylation and NF-κB activation. A kinase inactive mutant of IKKβ, which has been used as evidence for the critical importance of IKKβ in TNF-induced signaling, blocks activation of NF-κB induced by IKKα, even in cells that are deficient in IKKβ. Conclusions: These results demonstrate the importance of IKKα in canonical NF-κB activation, downstream of cytokine treatment of cells. The experiments suggest that IKKα will be a therapeutic target in inflammatory disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9428
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 25 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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