The vertebrate transcription factor NF-kappaB is induced by over 150 different stimuli. Active NF-kappaB, in turn, participates in the control of transcription of over 150 target genes. Because a large variety of bacteria and viruses activate NF-kappaB and because the transcription factor regulates the expression of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, immunoreceptors, and cell adhesion molecules, NF-kappaB has often been termed a 'central mediator of the human immune response'. This article contains a complete listing of all NF-kappaB inducers and target genes described to date. The collected data argue that NF-kappaB functions more generally as a central regulator of stress responses. In addition, NF-kappaB activation blocks apoptosis in several cell types. Coupling stress responsiveness and anti-apoptotic pathways through the use of a common transcription factor may result in increased cell survival following stress insults.