RelA and RelB cross-talk and function in Epstein-Barr virus transformed B cells

Leukemia. 2014 Apr;28(4):871-9. doi: 10.1038/leu.2013.274. Epub 2013 Sep 23.


In this study, we determined the respective roles of RelA and RelB NF-κB subunits in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed B cells. Using different EBV-immortalized B-cell models, we showed that only RelA activation increased both survival and cell growth. RelB activity was induced secondarily to RelA activation and repressed RelA DNA binding by trapping the p50 subunit. Reciprocally, RelA activation repressed RelB activity by increasing expression of its inhibitor p100. To search for such reciprocal inhibition at the transcriptional level, we studied gene expression profiles of our RelA and RelB regulatable cellular models. Ten RelA-induced genes and one RelB-regulated gene, ARNTL2, were repressed by RelB and RelA, respectively. Apart from this gene, RelB signature was included in that of RelA Functional groups of RelA-regulated genes were for control of energy metabolism, genetic instability, protection against apoptosis, cell cycle and immune response. Additional functions coregulated by RelA and/or RelB were autophagy and plasma cell differentiation. Altogether, these results demonstrate a cross-inhibition between RelA and RelB and suggest that, in fine, RelB was subordinated to RelA. In the view of future drug development, RelA appeared to be pivotal in both classical and alternative activation pathways, at least in EBV-transformed B cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Transformation, Viral*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / etiology*
  • NF-kappa B / physiology
  • Transcription Factor RelA / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factor RelA / genetics
  • Transcription Factor RelA / physiology*
  • Transcription Factor RelB / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factor RelB / genetics
  • Transcription Factor RelB / physiology*
  • Transcriptome


  • NF-kappa B
  • RELA protein, human
  • RELB protein, human
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Transcription Factor RelB