A20 (also known as TNFAIP3) is a cytoplasmic protein that plays a key role in the negative regulation of inflammation and immunity. Polymorphisms in the A20 gene locus have been identified as risk alleles for multiple human autoimmune diseases, and A20 has also been proposed to function as a tumor suppressor in several human B-cell lymphomas. A20 expression is strongly induced by multiple stimuli, including the proinflammatory cytokines TNF and IL-1, and microbial products that trigger pathogen recognition receptors, such as Toll-like receptors. A20 functions in a negative feedback loop, which mediates its inhibitory functions by downregulating key proinflammatory signaling pathways, including those controlling NF-κB- and IRF3-dependent gene expression. Activation of these transcription factors is controlled by both K48- and K63- polyubiquitination of upstream signaling proteins, respectively triggering proteasome-mediated degradation or interaction with other signaling proteins. A20 turns off NF-κB and IRF3 activation by modulating both types of ubiquitination. Induction of K48-polyubiquitination by A20 involves its C-terminal zinc-finger ubiquitin-binding domain, which may promote interaction with E3 ligases, such as Itch and RNF11 that are involved in mediating A20 inhibitory functions. A20 is thought to promote de-ubiquitination of K63-polyubiquitin chains either directly, due to its N-terminal deubiquitinase domain, or by disrupting the interaction between E3 and E2 enzymes that catalyze K63-polyubiquitination. A20 is subject to different mechanisms of regulation, including phosphorylation, proteolytic processing, and association with ubiquitin binding proteins. Here we review the expression and biological activities of A20, as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms.
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