PerspectiveCell Biology

Sphingolipids: The Oil on the TRAFire That Promotes Inflammation

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Sci. Signal.  28 Sep 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 141, pp. pe34
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3141pe34

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Tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR)–associated factors (TRAFs) control inflammatory and immune responses by acting downstream of TNFRs and Toll-like receptors (TLRs). TRAF2 in particular has been extensively studied for its involvement in signaling by TNF-α, the classic inflammatory cytokine. Because it has a RING finger, it has been suggested that TRAF2 acts as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that catalyzes the noncanonical Lys-63 (K63)–linked polyubiquitination of receptor-induced protein 1 (RIP1), which is an essential event in the activation of the IκB kinase complex and consequently nuclear factor κB. Furthermore, TRAF2 itself is subject to K63-linked polyubiquitination, a modification that is rapidly induced upon receptor ligation and was interpreted to be the result of self-ubiquitination. However, formal evidence that TRAF2 is an active E3 ubiquitin ligase was lacking. New evidence shows that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a sphingolipid that is synthesized during inflammatory responses, is an essential cofactor for TRAF2 ubiquitin ligase activity. S1P binds to TRAF2 and promotes TRAF2-mediated K63-linked RIP1 polyubiquitination, providing direct evidence that TRAF2 is an active E3 ubiquitin ligase and also introducing lipid second messengers into the realm of TNFR and TLR signaling.

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