IKKgamma/NEMO is a protein that is critical for the assembly of the high molecular weight IkappaB kinase (IKK) complex. To investigate the role of IKKgamma/NEMO in the assembly of the IKK complex, we conducted a series of experiments in which the chromatographic distribution of extracts prepared from cells transiently expressing epitope-tagged IKKgamma/NEMO and the IKKs were examined. When expressed alone following transfection, IKKalpha and IKKbeta were present in low molecular weight complexes migrating between 200 and 400 kDa. However, when coexpressed with IKKgamma/NEMO, both IKKalpha and IKKbeta migrated at approximately 600 kDa which was similar to the previously described IKK complex that is activated by cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha. When either IKKalpha or IKKbeta was expressed alone with IKKgamma/NEMO, IKKbeta but not IKKalpha migrated in the higher molecular weight IKK complex. Constitutively active or inactive forms of IKKbeta were both incorporated into the high molecular weight IKK complex in the presence of IKKgamma/NEMO. The amino-terminal region of IKKgamma/NEMO, which interacts directly with IKKbeta, was required for formation of the high molecular weight IKK complex and for stimulation of IKKbeta kinase activity. These results suggest that recruitment of the IKKs into a high molecular complex by IKKgamma/NEMO is a crucial step involved in IKK function.
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