Signal transduction by tumor necrosis factor and gene regulation of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6

Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Oct 15;60(8):1185-95. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(00)00412-3.


Interleukin (IL)-6 is a multifunctional cytokine that can be induced by a plethora of chemical or physiological compounds, including the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and IL-1. The molecule TNF has a trimeric configuration and thus binds to membrane-bound, cellular receptors to initiate cell death mechanisms and signaling pathways leading to gene induction. Previously, we showed that induced clustering of the intracellular domains of the p55 TNF receptor, or of their respective 'death domains' only, is sufficient to activate the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappa B) and several mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. NF-kappa B is the exclusive transcription factor for induction of the IL-6 gene in response to TNF and functions as the final trigger to activate a multiprotein complex, a so-called 'enhanceosome', at the level of the IL-6 promoter. Furthermore, the enhanceosome displays histone acetylation activity, which turned out to be essential for IL-6 gene activation via NF-kappa B. However, activation of NF-kappa B alone is not sufficient for IL-6 gene induction in response to TNF, as inhibition of the coactivated extracellular signal-regulated kinase and p38 MAPK pathways blocks TNF-mediated gene expression. Nevertheless, the transactivating NF-kappa B subunit p65 is not a direct target of MAPK phosphorylation. Thus, we postulated that other components of the enhanceosome complex are sensitive to MAPK cascades and found that MAPK activity is unequivocally linked to the histone acetylation capacity of the enhanceosome to stimulate gene expression in response to TNF. In contrast, glucocorticoid repression of TNF-driven IL-6 gene expression does not depend on abrogation of histone acetyltransferase activity, but originates from interference of the liganded glucocorticoid receptor with the contacts between NF-kappa B p65 and the promoter configuration around the TATA box.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Interleukin-6
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha