cis-acting, element-specific transcriptional activity of differentially phosphorylated nuclear factor-kappa B

J Biol Chem. 2005 Jan 7;280(1):244-52. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M409344200. Epub 2004 Oct 29.


Phosphorylation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappa B) subunits emerges as a mechanism by which transcriptional activity of nuclear NF-kappa B complexes is regulated in an inhibitor kappa B-independent fashion. As the main transactivator, the p65 subunit of NF-kappa B has an outstanding position in the hierarchy of NF-kappa B proteins. p65 is a multiply phosphorylated protein with phosphorylation sites in the C-terminal transactivation domain and the N-terminal Rel homology domain (RHD). In this study, we describe two previously non-reported phospho-acceptor sites within the p65 RHD. We show that differential phosphorylation of serine residues within the RHD modulates transcriptional activity in a cis-acting element and promoter-specific context, thus leading to a phosphorylation state-dependent gene expression profile. RelA(-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts reconstituted with wild-type p65 or p65 phosphorylation-deficient mutants showed a distinctive expression profile of synthetic kappa B-dependent reporters as well as endogenous genes. Hypophosphorylated p65 did not display cis-acting element-specific changes in DNA binding or dimerization behavior. This study shows for the first time that site-specific phosphorylation can target a transcription factor to a particular subset of genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • NF-kappa B* / genetics
  • NF-kappa B* / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Serine
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Serine