NFAT and NF-kappaB factors-the distant relatives

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Jul;36(7):1166-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2003.07.002.


NFAT and NF-kappaB proteins are members of a superfamily of transcription factors whose activity plays a crucial role in the activation, proliferation and apoptosis of lymphocytes. Both types of factors share a number of properties, including similar DNA binding domains and rapid nuclear translocation upon antigenic stimulation. While NF-kappaBs control both innate and adaptive immune responses, NFATs control the adaptive immune system which emerged-in parallel with the appearance of the NFAT family-in jawed fish. However, NFATs and NF-kappaBs differ remarkably in their function. Whereas NFATs support activation-induced cell death (AICD) of T and B cells, NF-kappaB proteins frequently exert a strong anti-apoptotic effect on lymphocytes and other cells. While the anti-apoptotic activity of NF-kappaBs contributes to their oncogenic capacity, the pro-apoptotic activity favors NFATs as tumor suppressors in lymphoid cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • B-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / physiology*
  • NFATC Transcription Factors
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • NFATC Transcription Factors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors