A Key Role for NF-κB Transcription Factor c-Rel in T-lymphocyte-differentiation and Effector Functions

Clin Dev Immunol. 2012;2012:239368. doi: 10.1155/2012/239368. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


The transcription factors of the Rel/NF-κB family function as key regulators of innate and adoptive immunity. Tightly and temporally controlled activation of NF-κB-signalling pathways ensures prevention of harmful immune cell dysregulation, whereas a loss of control leads to pathological conditions such as severe inflammation, autoimmune disease, and inflammation-associated oncogenesis. Five family members have been identified in mammals: RelA (p65), c-Rel, RelB, and the precursor proteins NF-κB1 (p105) and NF-κB2 (p100), that are processed into p50 and p52, respectively. While RelA-containing dimers are present in most cell types, c-Rel complexes are predominately found in cells of hematopoietic origin. In T-cell lymphocytes, certain genes essential for immune function such as Il2 and Foxp3 are directly regulated by c-Rel. Additionally, c-Rel-dependent IL-12 and IL-23 transcription by macrophages and dendritic cells is crucial for T-cell differentiation and effector functions. Accordingly, c-Rel expression in T cells and antigen-presenting cells (APCs) controls a delicate balance between tolerance and immunity. This review gives a selective overview on recent progress in understanding of diverse roles of c-Rel in regulating adaptive immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / cytology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Mammals
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / immunology*
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel