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J Biol Chem. 2010 Dec 10;285(50):39511-22. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.159681. Epub 2010 Oct 11.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced inflammation is increased but apoptosis is inhibited by common food additive carrageenan.

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Department of Medicine, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, a homotrimeric, pleiotropic cytokine, is secreted in response to inflammatory stimuli in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. TNF-α mediates both apoptosis and inflammation, stimulating an inflammatory cascade through the non-canonical pathway of NF-κB activation, leading to increased nuclear RelB and p52. In contrast, the common food additive carrageenan (CGN) stimulates inflammation through both the canonical and non-canonical pathways of NF-κB activation and utilizes the adaptor molecule BCL10 (B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 10). In a series of experiments, colonic epithelial cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts were treated with TNF-α and carrageenan in order to simulate the possible effects of exposure to dietary CGN in the setting of a TNF-α-mediated inflammatory disease process. A marked increase in secretion of IL-8 occurred, attributable to synergistic effects on phosphorylated NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK) in the non-canonical pathway. TNF-α induced the ubiquitination of TRAF2 (TNF receptor-associated factor 2), which interacts with NIK, and CGN induced phosphorylation of BCL10, leading to increased NIK phosphorylation. These results suggest that TNF-α and CGN in combination act to increase NIK phosphorylation, thereby increasing activation of the non-canonical pathway of NF-κB activation. In contrast, the apoptotic effects of TNF-α, including activation of caspase-8 and PARP-1 (poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1) fragmentation, were markedly reduced in the presence of CGN, and CGN caused reduced expression of Fas. These findings demonstrate that exposure to CGN drives TNF-α-stimulated cells toward inflammation rather than toward apoptotic cell death and suggest that CGN exposure may compromise the effectiveness of anti-TNF-α therapy.

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