Once, researchers thought that only the kinase IKKb--and not its second catalytic subunit, IKKa--had a direct role in activating NF-kB, the much-studied transcription factor that is implicated in activating genes responsible for inflammatory responses and apoptosis.1 However, new research by Michael Karin, professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Ulm, Germany, have demonstrated the role of IKKa in a second NF-kB activation pathway.2

This research, says Karin, is important because the NF-kB pathway is involved in acute and chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. Pharmaceutical companies, he explains, want to find general IKK inhibitors or IKKb subunit inhibitors, even though IKKb inhibition leads to apoptosis sensitivity induced by tumor necrosis factor and immune deficiencies. "However, if you inhibit IKKa, based...

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