NEMO and RIP1 control cell fate in response to extensive DNA damage via TNF-α feedforward signaling.
Upon DNA damage, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase triggers multiple events to promote cell survival and facilitate repair. If damage is excessive, ATM stimulates cytokine secretion to alert neighboring cells and apoptosis to eliminate the afflicted cell. ATM augments cell survival by activating nuclear factor (NF)-κB; however, how ATM induces cytokine production and apoptosis remains elusive. Here we uncover a p53-independent mechanism that transmits ATM-driven cytokine and caspase signals upon strong genotoxic damage. Extensive DNA lesions stimulated two sequential NF-κB activation phases, requiring ATM and NEMO/IKK-γ: The first phase induced TNF-α-TNFR1 feedforward signaling, promoting the second phase and driving RIP1 phosphorylation. In turn, RIP1 kinase triggered JNK3/MAPK10-dependent interleukin-8 secretion and FADD-mediated proapoptotic caspase-8 activation. Thus, in the context of excessive DNA damage, ATM employs NEMO and RIP1 kinase through autocrine TNF-α signaling to switch on cytokine production and caspase activation. These results shed light on cell-fate regulation by ATM.