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Mol Cell. 2004 May 7;14(3):289-301.

The TRAF6 ubiquitin ligase and TAK1 kinase mediate IKK activation by BCL10 and MALT1 in T lymphocytes.

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Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


The CARD domain protein BCL10 and paracaspase MALT1 are essential for the activation of IkappaB kinase (IKK) and NF-kappaB in response to T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation. Here we present evidence that TRAF6 ubiquitin ligase and TAK1 protein kinase mediate IKK activation by BCL10 and MALT1. RNAi-mediated silencing of MALT1, TAK1, TRAF6, and TRAF2 suppressed TCR-dependent IKK activation and interleukin-2 production in T cells. Furthermore, we have reconstituted the pathway from BCL10 to IKK activation in vitro with purified proteins of MALT1, TRAF6, TAK1, and ubiquitination enzymes including Ubc13/Uev1A. We find that a small fraction of BCL10 and MALT1 proteins form high molecular weight oligomers. Strikingly, only these oligomeric forms of BCL10 and MALT1 can activate IKK in vitro. The MALT1 oligomers bind to TRAF6, induce TRAF6 oligomerization, and activate the ligase activity of TRAF6 to polyubiquitinate NEMO. These results reveal an oligomerization --> ubiquitination --> phosphorylation cascade that culminates in NF-kappaB activation in T lymphocytes.

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