IκB kinaseα/β control biliary homeostasis and hepatocarcinogenesis in mice by phosphorylating the cell-death mediator receptor-interacting protein kinase 1

Hepatology. 2016 Oct;64(4):1217-31. doi: 10.1002/hep.28723. Epub 2016 Aug 11.


The IκB-Kinase (IKK) complex-consisting of the catalytic subunits, IKKα and IKKβ, as well as the regulatory subunit, NEMO-mediates activation of the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) pathway, but previous studies suggested the existence of NF-κB-independent functions of IKK subunits with potential impact on liver physiology and disease. Programmed cell death is a crucial factor in the progression of liver diseases, and receptor-interacting kinases (RIPKs) exerts strategic control over multiple pathways involved in regulating novel programmed cell-death pathways and inflammation. We hypothesized that RIPKs might be unrecognized targets of the catalytic IKK-complex subunits, thereby regulating hepatocarcinogenesis and cholestasis. In this present study, mice with specific genetic inhibition of catalytic IKK activity in liver parenchymal cells (LPCs; IKKα/β(LPC-KO) ) were intercrossed with RIPK1(LPC-KO) or RIPK3(-/-) mice to examine whether RIPK1 or RIPK3 might be downstream targets of IKKs. Moreover, we performed in vivo phospho-proteome analyses and in vitro kinase assays, mass spectrometry, and mutagenesis experiments. These analyses revealed that IKKα and IKKβ-in addition to their known function in NF-κB activation-directly phosphorylate RIPK1 at distinct regions of the protein, thereby regulating cell viability. Loss of this IKKα/β-dependent RIPK1 phosphorylation in LPCs inhibits compensatory proliferation of hepatocytes and intrahepatic biliary cells, thus impeding HCC development, but promoting biliary cell paucity and lethal cholestasis.

Conclusions: IKK-complex subunits transmit a previously unrecognized signal through RIPK1, which is fundamental for the long-term consequences of chronic hepatic inflammation and might have potential implications for future pharmacological strategies against cholestatic liver disease and cancer. (Hepatology 2016;64:1217-1231).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Homeostasis*
  • I-kappa B Kinase / physiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*


  • MIB1 protein, mouse
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • I-kappa B Kinase