Background: The stress-activated protein kinase/Jun-amino-terminal kinase SAPK/JNK is potently and preferentially activated by a variety of environmental stresses including UV and gamma radiation, ceramides, inflammatory cytokines, and in some instances, growth factors and GPCR agonists (1-6). As with the other MAPKs, the core signaling unit is composed of a MAPKKK, typically MEKK1-MEKK4, or by one of the mixed lineage kinases (MLKs), which phosphorylate and activate MKK4/7. Upon activation, MKKs phosphorylate and activate the SAPK/JNK kinase (2). Stress signals are delivered to this cascade by small GTPases of the Rho family (Rac, Rho, cdc42) (3). Both Rac1 and cdc42 mediate the stimulation of MEKKs and MLKs (3). Alternatively, MKK4/7 can be activated in a GTPase-independent mechanism via stimulation of a germinal center kinase (GCK) family member (4). There are three SAPK/JNK genes each of which undergoes alternative splicing, resulting in numerous isoforms (3). SAPK/JNK, when active as a dimer, can translocate to the nucleus and regulate transcription through its effects on c-Jun, ATF-2, and other transcription factors (3,5).
Background: Transcription factors of the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB)/Rel family play a pivotal role in inflammatory and immune responses (1,2). There are five family members in mammals: RelA, c-Rel, RelB, NF-κB1 (p105/p50), and NF-κB2 (p100/p52). Both p105 and p100 are proteolytically processed by the proteasome to produce p50 and p52, respectively. Rel proteins bind p50 and p52 to form dimeric complexes that bind DNA and regulate transcription. In unstimulated cells, NF-κB is sequestered in the cytoplasm by IκB inhibitory proteins (3-5). NF-κB-activating agents can induce the phosphorylation of IκB proteins, targeting them for rapid degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and releasing NF-κB to enter the nucleus where it regulates gene expression (6-8). NIK and IKKα (IKK1) regulate the phosphorylation and processing of NF-κB2 (p100) to produce p52, which translocates to the nucleus (9-11).