Positive Feedback Within a Kinase Signaling Complex Functions as a Switch Mechanism for NF-κB Activation

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A switchlike response in nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activity implies the existence of a threshold in the NF-κB signaling module. We show that the CARD-containing MAGUK protein 1 (CARMA1, also called CARD11)-TAK1 (MAP3K7)-inhibitor of NF-κB (IκB) kinase-β (IKKβ) module is a switch mechanism for NF-κB activation in B cell receptor (BCR) signaling. Experimental and mathematical modeling analyses showed that IKK activity is regulated by positive feedback from IKKβ to TAK1, generating a steep dose response to BCR stimulation. Mutation of the scaffolding protein CARMA1 at serine-578, an IKKβ target, abrogated not only late TAK1 activity, but also the switchlike activation of NF-κB in single cells, suggesting that phosphorylation of this residue accounts for the feedback.

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