Activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB by proinflammatory stimuli leads to increased expression of genes involved in inflammation. Activation of NF-kappaB requires the activity of an inhibitor of kappaB (IkappaB)-kinase (IKK) complex containing two kinases (IKKalpha and IKKbeta) and the regulatory protein NEMO (NF-kappaB essential modifier). An amino-terminal alpha-helical region of NEMO associated with a carboxyl-terminal segment of IKKalpha and IKKbeta that we term the NEMO-binding domain (NBD). A cell-permeable NBD peptide blocked association of NEMO with the IKK complex and inhibited cytokine-induced NF-kappaB activation and NF-kappaB-dependent gene expression. The peptide also ameliorated inflammatory responses in two experimental mouse models of acute inflammation. The NBD provides a target for the development of drugs that would block proinflammatory activation of the IKK complex without inhibiting basal NF-kappaB activity.
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