C-Rel deficiency increases caspase-4 expression and leads to ER stress and necrosis in EBV-transformed cells

Aníbal Valentín-Acevedo, Frank L. Sinquett, Lori R. Covey

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4 Scopus citations


LMP1-mediated activation of nuclear factor of kappaB (NF-κB) is critical for the ligand independent proliferation and cell survival of in vitro EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). Previous experiments revealed that a majority of LMP1-dependent responses are regulated by NF-κB. However, the extent that individual NF-κB family members are required for these responses, in particular, c-Rel, whose expression is restricted to mature hematopoietic cells, remains unclear. Here we report that low c-Rel expression in LCLs derived from a patient with hyper-IgM syndrome (Pt1), resulted in defects in proliferation and cell survival. In contrast to studies that associated loss of NF-κB with increased apoptosis, Pt1 LCLs failed to initiate apoptosis and alternatively underwent autophagy and necrotic cell death. Whereas the proliferation defect appeared linked to a c-Rel-associated decrease in c-myc expression, identified pro-survival and pro-apoptotic targets were expressed at or near control levels consistent with the absence of apoptosis. Ultrastructural examination of Pt1 LCLs revealed a high level of cellular and ER stress that was further supported by gene expression profiling showing the upregulation of several genes involved in stress and inflammation. Apoptosis-independent cell death was accompanied by increased expression of the inflammatory marker, caspase-4. Using gene overexpression and siRNA knockdown we demonstrated that levels of c-Rel directly modulated expression of caspase-4 as well as other ER stress genes. Overall, these findings reveal the importance of c-Rel in maintaining LCL viability and that decreased expression results in ER stress and a default response leading to necrotic cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25467
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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