vCLAP, the E10 gene product of equine herpesvirus-2, is a caspase-recruitment domain (CARD)-containing protein that has been shown to induce both apoptosis and NF-kappaB activation in mammalian cells. vCLAP has a cellular counterpart, Bcl10/cCLAP, which is also an activator of apoptosis and NF-kappaB. Recent studies demonstrated that vCLAP activates NF-kappaB through an IkappaB kinase (IKK)-dependent pathway, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. In this report, we demonstrate that vCLAP associates stably with the IKK complex through direct binding to the C-terminal region of IKKgamma. Consistent with this finding, IKKgamma was found to be essential for vCLAP-induced NF-kappaB activation, and the association between vCLAP and the IKK complex induced persistent activation of the IKKs. Moreover, enforced oligomerization of the isolated C-terminal region of vCLAP, which interacts with IKKgamma, can trigger NF-kappaB activation. Finally, substitution of the C-terminal region of IKKgamma, which interacts with vCLAP, with the CARD of vCLAP or Bcl10 produced a molecule that was able to activate NF-kappaB when ectopically expressed in IKKgamma-deficient cells. These data suggest that vCLAP-induced oligomerization of IKKgamma, which is mediated by the CARD of vCLAP, could be the mechanism by which vCLAP induces activation of NF-kappaB.
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