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Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Jul;32(13):2479-89. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00106-12. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

IκB kinase α phosphorylation of TRAF4 downregulates innate immune signaling.

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Department of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Despite their homology, IκB kinase α (IKKα) and IKKβ have divergent roles in NF-κB signaling. IKKβ strongly activates NF-κB while IKKα can downregulate NF-κB under certain circumstances. Given this, identifying independent substrates for these kinases could help delineate their divergent roles. Peptide substrate array technology followed by bioinformatic screening identified TRAF4 as a substrate for IKKα. Like IKKα, TRAF4 is atypical within its family because it is the only TRAF family member to negatively regulate innate immune signaling. IKKα's phosphorylation of serine-426 on TRAF4 was required for this negative regulation. Binding to the Crohn's disease susceptibility protein, NOD2, is required for TRAF4 phosphorylation and subsequent inhibition of NOD2 signaling. Structurally, serine-426 resides within an exaggerated β-bulge in TRAF4 that is not present in the other TRAF proteins, and phosphorylation of this site provides a structural basis for the atypical function of TRAF4 and its atypical role in NOD2 signaling.

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