Marty W. Mayo
Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics
Ph.D., East Carolina University
Transcriptional Regulation by NF-kB


Within cells there exists a fine balance between survival and death. One of the earliest steps in the development of cancer is the ability of a cell to escape death. It is now well established that cells die through an orderly process known as programmed cell death or apoptosis. However, cells are able to overcome apoptotic pathways by upregulating gene products that inactivate the cell death machinery.

Our group was among the first to describe that the transcription factor NF-kB is involved in the inhibition of cell death. Classical NF-kB, composed of a p50/p65 neterodimer protein complex, is ubiquitously expressed in cells. The activation of NF-kB by various stimuli, including tumor necrosis factor, stimulates the production of gene products that protect cells from apoptosis. Interestingly, the involvement of NF-kB in suppressing cell death implicates this transcription factor in cancer progression. Moreover, we have found that NF-kB is activated in response to chemotherapy and irradiation, and is required to overcome cell death by these agents. Therefore, the use of NF-kB inhibitors would have important implications for increasing the effectiveness of standard cancer therapy.

Our laboratory is broadly interested in understanding transcrptional control of NF-kB by addressing four basic questions. First, we would like to determine the signaling pathways that are utilized by stress inducers to activate NF-kB-dependent gene expression. Second, we would like to elucidate how these stress pathways induce the transcriptional activation of NF-kB. In particular, determine whether DNA-binding, chromatin rearrangement and recruitment of co-activators are important in this process. Third, we would like to identify gene products regulated by NF-kB that are responsible for blocking apoptosis. Finally, we would like to identify and characterize pharmacological agents that inhibit NF-kB activation and determine whether these agents can be used in combination with standard cancer therapies. To address these questions our laboratory utilizes human cancer cell lines, as well as more complex human xenograft tumor models propagated in nude mice. It is a combination of these two experimental models that wil allow us to understand NF-kB regulated processes and to determine how these components are important in human cancer.

Selected References

Guttridge DC, Mayo MW, Madrid LV, Wang CY, Baldwin AS Jr. (2000) "NF-kappaB-induced loss of MyoD messenger RNA: possible role in muscle decay and cachexia." Science. Sep 289(5488):2363-6. [PubMed]

Mayo MW, Baldwin AS. (2000) "The transcription factor NF-kappaB: control of oncogenesis and cancer therapy resistance." Biochim Biophys Acta. Mar 1470:M55-62. [PubMed]

Madrid LV, Wang CY, Guttridge DC, Schottelius AJ, Baldwin AS Jr, Mayo MW. (2000) "Akt suppresses apoptosis by stimulating the transactivation potential of the RelA/p65 subunit of NF-kappaB." Mol Cell Biol. 20:1626-38. [PubMed]

Mayo MW, Wang CY, Drouin SS, Madrid LV, Marshall AF, Reed JC, Weissman BE,Baldwin AS. (1999) "WT1 modulates apoptosis by transcriptionally upregulating the bcl-2 proto-oncogene." EMBO J. Jul 18(14):3990-4003. [PubMed]

Wang CY, Mayo MW, Korneluk RG, Goeddel DV, Baldwin AS Jr. (1998) "NF-kappaB antiapoptosis: induction of TRAF1 and TRAF2 and c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 to suppress caspase-8 activation." Science. Sep 281(5383):1680-3. [PubMed]

Mayo MW, Wang CY, Cogswell PC, Rogers-Graham KS, Lowe SW, Der CJ, Baldwin AS Jr. (1997) "Requirement of NF-kappaB activation to suppress p53-independent apoptosis induced by oncogenic Ras." Science. Dec 278(5344):1812-5. [PubMed]

Wang CY, Mayo MW, Baldwin AS Jr. (1996) "TNF- and cancer therapy-induced apoptosis: potentiation by inhibition of NF-kappaB." Science. Nov 274(5288):784-7. [PubMed]