NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells) is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival. NF-κB is found in almost all animal cell types and is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, cytokines, free radicals, heavy metals, ultraviolet irradiation, oxidized LDL, and bacterial or viral antigens. NF-κB plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection (κ light chains are critical components of immunoglobulins). Incorrect regulation of NF-κB has been linked to cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, septic shock, viral infection, and improper immune development. NF-κB has also been implicated in processes of synaptic plasticity and memory.
NF-κB has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the activation of NF-κB by proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), and the role of NF-κB in the expression of other proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules,
NF-κB is widely used by eukaryotic cells as a regulator of genes that control cell proliferation and cell survival. As such, many different types of human tumors have misregulated NF-κB: that is, NF-κB is constitutively active. Active NF-κB turns on the expression of genes that keep the cell proliferating and protect the cell from conditions that would otherwise cause it to die via apoptosis. Defects in NF-κB results in increased susceptibility to apoptosis leading to increased cell death. This is because NF-κB regulates anti-apoptotic genes especially the TRAF1 and TRAF2 and therefore abrogates the activities of the caspase family of enzymes, which are central to most apoptotic processes.
In tumor cells, NF-κB is active either due to mutations in genes encoding the NF-κB transcription factors themselves or in genes that control NF-κB activity (such as IκB genes); in addition, some tumor cells secrete factors that cause NF-κB to become active. Blocking NF-κB can cause tumor cells to stop proliferating, to die, or to become more sensitive to the action of anti-tumor agents. Thus, NF-κB is the subject of much active research among pharmaceutical companies as a target for anti-cancer therapy.
Inhibition of NF-κB
Abstract: "Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) transcription factors regulate several important physiological processes, including inflammation and immune responses, cell growth, apoptosis, and the expression of certain viral genes. Therefore, the NF-kappaB signaling pathway has also provided a focus for pharmacological intervention, primarily in situations of chronic inflammation or in cancer, where the pathway is often constitutively active and plays a key role in the disease. Now that many of the molecular details of the NF-kappaB pathway are known, it is clear that modulators of this pathway can act at several levels. As described herein, over 750 inhibitors of the NF-kappaB pathway have been identified, including a variety of natural and synthetic molecules. These compounds include antioxidants, peptides, small RNA/DNA, microbial and viral proteins, small molecules, and engineered dominant-negative or constitutively active polypeptides. Several of these molecules act as general inhibitors of NF-kappaB induction, whereas others inhibit specific pathways of induction. In addition, some compounds appear to target multiple steps in the NF-kappaB pathway. Compounds designed as specific NF-kappaB inhibitors are not yet in clinical use, but they are likely to be developed as treatments for certain cancers and neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases. Moreover, the therapeutic and preventative effects of many natural products may, at least in part, be due to their ability to inhibit NF-kappaB." See Reference 4 below for full article.
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