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Mol Cell. 2012 Jul 13;47(1):111-21. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.04.020. Epub 2012 May 24.

NEMO ensures signaling specificity of the pleiotropic IKKβ by directing its kinase activity toward IκBα.

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Signaling Systems Laboratory, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0375, USA.


Besides activating NFκB by phosphorylating IκBs, IKKα/IKKβ kinases are also involved in regulating metabolic insulin signaling, the mTOR pathway, Wnt signaling, and autophagy. How IKKβ enzymatic activity is targeted to stimulus-specific substrates has remained unclear. We show here that NEMO, known to be essential for IKKβ activation by inflammatory stimuli, is also a specificity factor that directs IKKβ activity toward IκBα. Physical interaction and functional competition studies with mutant NEMO and IκB proteins indicate that NEMO functions as a scaffold to recruit IκBα to IKKβ. Interestingly, expression of NEMO mutants that allow for IKKβ activation by the cytokine IL-1, but fail to recruit IκBs, results in hyperphosphorylation of alternative IKKβ substrates. Furthermore IKK's function in autophagy, which is independent of NFκB, is significantly enhanced without NEMO as IκB scaffold. Our work establishes a role for scaffolds such as NEMO in determining stimulus-specific signal transduction via the pleiotropic signaling hub IKK.

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