Members of the NF-kappaB family of transcription factors cause transcriptional activation of anti-apoptotic genes. Here we determined whether survival of biotin-deficient cells is mediated by nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB. Human T (Jurkat) cells were cultured in biotin-deficient or biotin-supplemented media; nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB was stimulated with phytohemagglutinin and phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate. Nuclear abundance of two members (p50 and p65) of the NF-kappaB family was greater in biotin-deficient compared to biotin-supplemented cells; this effect was mediated by phosphorylation of IkappaBalpha. The nuclear enrichment of p50 and p65 in biotin-deficient cells was associated with transcriptional activation of NF-kappaB-depedent genes such as the tumor suppressor gene p53 and the anti-apoptotic gene Bfl-1/A1. Biotin-deficient cells exhibited smaller activities of the apoptotic enzyme caspase-3 in response to treatment with tumor necrosis factor alpha, and decreased cell death in response to serum starvation compared to biotin-supplemented cells. These findings suggest that NF-kappaB mediates survival of biotin-deficient cells.