NF-κB Signaling: A Tale of Two Pathways in Skeletal Myogenesis

Nadine Bakkar, Denis C. Guttridge


NF-κB is a ubiquitiously expressed transcription factor that plays vital roles in innate immunity and other processes involving cellular survival, proliferation, and differentiation. Activation of NF-κB is controlled by an IκB kinase (IKK) complex that can direct either canonical (classical) NF-κB signaling by degrading the IκB inhibitor and releasing p65/p50 dimers to the nucleus, or causes p100 processing and nuclear translocation of RelB/p52 via a noncanonical (alternative) pathway. Under physiological conditions, NF-κB activity is transiently regulated, whereas constitutive activation of this transcription factor typically in the classical pathway is associated with a multitude of disease conditions, including those related to skeletal muscle. How NF-κB functions in muscle diseases is currently under intense investigation. Insight into this role of NF-κB may be gained by understanding at a more basic level how this transcription factor contributes to skeletal muscle cell differentiation. Recent data from knockout mice support that the classical NF-κB pathway functions as an inhibitor of skeletal myogenesis and muscle regeneration acting through multiple mechanisms. In contrast, alternative NF-κB signaling does not appear to be required for myofiber conversion, but instead functions in myotube homeostasis by regulating mitochondrial biogenesis. Additional knowledge of these signaling pathways in skeletal myogenesis should aid in the development of specific inhibitors that may be useful in treatments of muscle disorders.

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