Reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by NADPH oxidase function as defence and signalling molecules related to innate immunity and various cellular responses. The activation of NADPH oxidase in response to plasma membrane receptor activation depends on the phosphorylation of cytoplasmic oxidase subunits, their translocation to membranes and the assembly of all NADPH oxidase components. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) is a prominent stimulus of ROS production, but the molecular mechanisms by which TNF activates NADPH oxidase are poorly understood. Here we identify riboflavin kinase (RFK, formerly known as flavokinase) as a previously unrecognized TNF-receptor-1 (TNFR1)-binding protein that physically and functionally couples TNFR1 to NADPH oxidase. In mouse and human cells, RFK binds to both the TNFR1-death domain and to p22(phox), the common subunit of NADPH oxidase isoforms. RFK-mediated bridging of TNFR1 and p22(phox) is a prerequisite for TNF-induced but not for Toll-like-receptor-induced ROS production. Exogenous flavin mononucleotide or FAD was able to substitute fully for TNF stimulation of NADPH oxidase in RFK-deficient cells. RFK is rate-limiting in the synthesis of FAD, an essential prosthetic group of NADPH oxidase. The results suggest that TNF, through the activation of RFK, enhances the incorporation of FAD in NADPH oxidase enzymes, a critical step for the assembly and activation of NADPH oxidase.
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