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Cell. 2003 Nov 26;115(5):565-76.

Sequential modification of NEMO/IKKgamma by SUMO-1 and ubiquitin mediates NF-kappaB activation by genotoxic stress.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 301 SMI, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The transcription factor NF-kappaB is critical for setting the cellular sensitivities to apoptotic stimuli, including DNA damaging anticancer agents. Central to NF-kappaB signaling pathways is NEMO/IKKgamma, the regulatory subunit of the cytoplasmic IkappaB kinase (IKK) complex. While NF-kappaB activation by genotoxic stress provides an attractive paradigm for nuclear-to-cytoplasmic signaling pathways, the mechanism by which nuclear DNA damage modulates NEMO to activate cytoplasmic IKK remains unknown. Here, we show that genotoxic stress causes nuclear localization of IKK-unbound NEMO via site-specific SUMO-1 attachment. Surprisingly, this sumoylation step is ATM-independent, but nuclear localization allows subsequent ATM-dependent ubiquitylation of NEMO to ultimately activate IKK in the cytoplasm. Thus, genotoxic stress induces two independent signaling pathways, SUMO-1 modification and ATM activation, which work in concert to sequentially cause nuclear targeting and ubiquitylation of free NEMO to permit the NF-kappaB survival pathway. These SUMO and ubiquitin modification pathways may serve as anticancer drug targets.

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