Molecular basis of NF-κB signaling

Annu Rev Biophys. 2013;42:443-68. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-083012-130338. Epub 2013 Mar 11.


NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa B) family transcription factors are master regulators of immune and inflammatory processes in response to both injury and infection. In the latent state, NF-κBs are sequestered in the cytosol by their inhibitor IκB (inhibitor of NF-κB) proteins. Upon stimulations of innate immune receptors such as Toll-like receptors and cytokine receptors such as those in the TNF (tumor necrosis factor) receptor superfamily, a series of membrane proximal events lead to the activation of the IKK (IκB kinase). Phosphorylation of IκBs results in their proteasomal degradation and the release of NF-κB for nuclear translocation and activation of gene transcription. Here, we review the plethora of structural studies in these NF-κB activation pathways, including the TRAF (TNF receptor-associated factor) proteins, IKK, NF-κB, ubiquitin ligases, and deubiquitinating enzymes. Although these structures only provide snapshots of isolated processes, an emerging picture is that these signaling cascades coalesce into large oligomeric signaling complexes, or signalosomes, for signal propagation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Immunologic