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Pulsatile Stimulation Determines Timing and Specificity of NF-κB-Dependent Transcription

Science  10 Apr 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5924, pp. 242-246
DOI: 10.1126/science.1164860

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Abstract

The nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) transcription factor regulates cellular stress responses and the immune response to infection. NF-κB activation results in oscillations in nuclear NF-κB abundance. To define the function of these oscillations, we treated cells with repeated short pulses of tumor necrosis factor–α at various intervals to mimic pulsatile inflammatory signals. At all pulse intervals that were analyzed, we observed synchronous cycles of NF-κB nuclear translocation. Lower frequency stimulations gave repeated full-amplitude translocations, whereas higher frequency pulses gave reduced translocation, indicating a failure to reset. Deterministic and stochastic mathematical models predicted how negative feedback loops regulate both the resetting of the system and cellular heterogeneity. Altering the stimulation intervals gave different patterns of NF-κB–dependent gene expression, which supports the idea that oscillation frequency has a functional role.

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