The controlled production and downstream signaling of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) are important for immunity and its anticancer effects. Although chronic stimulation with TNF-α is detrimental to the health of the host in several autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, TNF-α-contrary to what its name implies-leads to cancer formation by promoting cell proliferation and survival. Smac mimetic compounds (SMCs), small-molecule antagonists of inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs), switch the TNF-α signal from promoting survival to promoting death in cancer cells. Using a genome-wide siRNA screen to identify factors required for SMC-to-TNF-α-mediated cancer cell death, we identified the transcription factor SP3 as a critical molecule in both basal and SMC-induced production of TNF-α by engaging the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) transcriptional pathway. Moreover, the promotion of TNF-α expression by SP3 activity confers differential sensitivity of cancer versus normal cells to SMC treatment. The key role of SP3 in TNF-α production and signaling will help us further understand TNF-α biology and provide insight into mechanisms relevant to cancer and inflammatory disease.
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