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J Mol Signal. 2013 Jun 13;8(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1750-2187-8-7.

TRAF molecules in cell signaling and in human diseases.

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Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road, Nelson Labs Room B336, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854.


The tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNF-R)-associated factor (TRAF) family of intracellular proteins were originally identified as signaling adaptors that bind directly to the cytoplasmic regions of receptors of the TNF-R superfamily. The past decade has witnessed rapid expansion of receptor families identified to employ TRAFs for signaling. These include Toll-like receptors (TLRs), NOD-like receptors (NLRs), RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs), T cell receptor, IL-1 receptor family, IL-17 receptors, IFN receptors and TGFβ receptors. In addition to their role as adaptor proteins, most TRAFs also act as E3 ubiquitin ligases to activate downstream signaling events. TRAF-dependent signaling pathways typically lead to the activation of nuclear factor-κBs (NF-κBs), mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), or interferon-regulatory factors (IRFs). Compelling evidence obtained from germ-line and cell-specific TRAF-deficient mice demonstrates that each TRAF plays indispensable and non-redundant physiological roles, regulating innate and adaptive immunity, embryonic development, tissue homeostasis, stress response, and bone metabolism. Notably, mounting evidence implicates TRAFs in the pathogenesis of human diseases such as cancers and autoimmune diseases, which has sparked new appreciation and interest in TRAF research. This review presents an overview of the current knowledge of TRAFs, with an emphasis on recent findings concerning TRAF molecules in signaling and in human diseases.

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