Most normal and neoplastic cell types are resistant to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) cytotoxicity unless cotreated with protein or RNA synthesis inhibitors, such as cycloheximide and actinomycin D. Cellular resistance to TNF requires TNF receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2), which has been hypothesized to act mainly by mediating activation of the transcription factors nuclear factor kB (NFkB) and activator protein 1 (AP1). NFkB was proposed to switch on transcription of yet unidentified anti-apoptotic genes. To test the possible existence of NFkB-independent cytoprotective pathways, we systematically compared selective trans-dominant inhibitors of the NFkB pathway with inhibitors of TRAF2 signaling for their effect on TNF cytotoxicity. Blockade of TRAF2 function(s) by signaling-deficient oligomerization partners or by molecules affecting TRAF2 recruitment to the TNF receptor 1 complex completely abrogated the cytoprotective response. Conversely, sensitization to TNF cytotoxicity induced by a selective NFkB blockade affected only a fraction of TNF-treated cells in an apparently stochastic manner. No cytoprotective role for c-Jun amino-terminal kinases/stress-activated protein kinases (JNKs/SAPKs), which are activated by TRAF2 and contribute to stimulation of activator protein 1 activity, could be demonstrated in the cellular systems tested. Although required for cytoprotection, TRAF2 is not sufficient to protect cells from TNF + cycloheximide cytotoxicity when overexpressed in transfected cells, thus indicating an essential role of additional TNF receptor 1 complex components in the cytoprotective response. Our results indicate that TNF-induced cytoprotection is a complex function requiring the integration of multiple signal transduction pathways.
ASJC Scopus subject areas