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Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Oct 30;72(9):1132-41. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

NF-kappaB activation by double-strand breaks.

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  • 1Unit of Virology and Immunology, Center for Biomedical Integrated Genoproteomics, B23, University of Liège, B-4000 Liège, Belgium.


Cellular response to DNA damage is complex and relies on the simultaneous activation of different networks. It involves DNA damage recognition, repair, and induction of signalling cascades leading to cell cycle checkpoint activation, apoptosis, and stress related responses. The fate of damaged cells depends on the balance between pro- and antiapoptotic signals. In this decisive life or death choice, the transcription factor NF-kappaB has emerged as a prosurvival actor in most cell types. As corollary, it appears to be associated with tumorigenic process and resistance to therapeutic strategies as it protects cancerous cells from death. In this review, we will focus on NF-kappaB activation by double-strand breaks inducing agents, such as ionizing radiation and DNA topoisomerase I and II inhibitors routinely used in cancer therapy. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the NF-kappaB discovery, major steps of the DSB-triggered cascade have been recently identified. Two parallel cascades are necessary for NF-kappaB activation. The first one depends on ATM (activated by double-strand breaks) and the second on PIDD (activated by an unknown stress signal). The phosphorylation of NEMO by ATM is the point of convergence of these two cascades. The identification of ATM/NEMO complex as the long searched "nuclear to cytoplasm" signal leading to IKK activation is also a major piece of the puzzle. The knowledge of the precise steps leading to DSB-initiated NF-kappaB activation will allow the development of specific blocking compounds reducing its prosurvival function.

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