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J Immunol. 2001 Nov 1;167(9):4948-56.

c-Rel is required for the protection of B cells from antigen receptor-mediated, but not Fas-mediated, apoptosis.

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  • 1Division of Immunology, Department of Medicine, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The NF-kappaB/Rel transcription factor family has been shown to protect many cell types from apoptotic signals. However, it is not known whether NF-kappaB is required for all survival pathways and whether each NF-kappaB member plays a unique or a redundant role. Here we describe the results of studies on the role of c-Rel in survival. Mature B cells from c-Rel(-/-) mice exhibit defects in survival, including sensitivity to Ag receptor-mediated apoptosis as well as increased sensitivity to ionizing radiation and glucocorticoids. Transgene expression of Bcl-x(L), a c-Rel target gene, rescues c-Rel(-/-) B cells from their survival defects. Thus, c-Rel-dependent survival pathways are crucial for protection from apoptotic signals that target the mitochondrial pathway. Despite a lack of Bcl-x(L), c-Rel(-/-) B cells can still be rescued from Fas-mediated apoptosis via B cell receptor signaling. The Fas apoptosis inhibitor molecule and FLICE inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) proteins are up-regulated normally in c-Rel(-/-) B cells, and these two molecules may play a more physiological role in the Fas pathway. Furthermore, unlike the TNF sensitivity of RelA(-/-) fibroblasts, c-Rel-deficient fibroblasts are refractory to TNF-mediated cell death. Thus, c-Rel is dispensable for protection against death receptor-mediated apoptosis. Taken together, our data suggest that distinct NF-kappaB/Rel members are required for protecting cells from different types of apoptotic signals.

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