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IκBα is required for full transcriptional induction of some NFκB-regulated genes in response to TNF in MCF-7 cells


Inflammatory stimuli triggers the degradation of three inhibitory κB (IκB) proteins, allowing for nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-κB (NFκB) for transcriptional induction of its target genes. Of these three, IκBα is a well-known negative feedback regulator that limits the duration of NFκB activity. We sought to determine whether IκBα's role in enabling or limiting NFκB activation is important for tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced gene expression in human breast cancer cells (MCF-7). Contrary to our expectations, many more TNF-response genes showed reduced induction than enhanced induction in IκBα knockdown cells. Mathematical modeling was used to investigate the underlying mechanism. We found that the reduced activation of some NFκB target genes in IκBα-deficient cells could be explained by the incoherent feedforward loop (IFFL) model. In addition, for a subset of genes, prolonged NFκB activity due to loss of negative feedback control did not prolong their transient activation; this implied a multi-state transcription cycle control of gene induction. Genes encoding key inflammation-related transcription factors, such as JUNB and KLF10, were found to be best represented by a model that contained both the IFFL and the transcription cycle motif. Our analysis sheds light on the regulatory strategies that safeguard inflammatory gene expression from overproduction and repositions the function of IκBα not only as a negative feedback regulator of NFκB but also as an enabler of NFκB-regulated stimulus-responsive inflammatory gene expression. This study indicates the complex involvement of IκBα in the inflammatory response to TNF that is induced by radiation therapy in breast cancer.

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