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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differential cytokine regulation by NF-κB and AP-1 in Jurkat T-cells

Hazem Khalaf1, Jana Jass12 and Per-Erik Olsson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biology, Örebro Life Science Center, School of Science and Technology, Örebro University, SE-701 82 Örebro, Sweden

2 The Lawson Health Research Institute and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, N6A 4V2 Canada

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-26

Published: 27 May 2010



Activator protein (AP)-1 and nuclear factor (NF)-κB largely control T-cell activation, following binding of foreign antigens to the T-cell receptor leading to cytokine secretion. Elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines such as TNF, IL-6 and CXCL8 are associated with several human diseases including cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis and AIDS. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the transcription factors, AP-1 and NF-κB, in IL-6 and CXCL8 regulation in Jurkat T-cells.


Phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) exposure resulted in an up-regulation of AP-1 and down-regulation of NF-κB activity, however, exposure to heat killed (HK) Escherichia. coli MG1655 resulted in a dose-dependent increase in NF-κB activity without affecting AP-1. The cytokine profile revealed an up-regulation of the chemokine CXCL8 and the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF, IL-2 and IL-6 following treatment with both PMA and HK E. coli, while the levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 were not affected by PMA but were significantly down-regulated by HK E. coli. AP-1 activation was significantly increased 2 h after PMA exposure and continued to increase thereafter. In contrast, NF-κB responded to PMA exposure by a rapid up-regulation followed by a subsequent down-regulation. Increased intracellular Ca2+ concentrations countered the down-regulation of NF-κB by PMA, while similar treatment with calcium ionophore resulted in a reduced NF-κB activity following induction with HK E. coli. In order to further study NF-κB activation, we considered two up-stream signalling proteins, PKC and Bcl10. Phosphorylated-PKC levels increased in response to PMA and HK E. coli, while Bcl10 levels significantly decreased following PMA treatment. Using an NF-κB activation inhibitor, we observed complete inhibition of IL-6 expression while CXCL8 levels only decreased by 40% at the highest concentration. Treatment of Jurkat T-cells with PMA in the presence of JNK-inhibitor suppressed both CXCL8 and IL-6 while PKC-inhibitor primarily decreased CXCL8 expression.


The present study shows that NF-κB regulated IL-6 but not CXCL8. This complex regulation of CXCL8 suggests that there is a need to further evaluate the signalling pathways in order to develop new treatment for diseases with elevated CXCL8 levels, such as AIDS and autoimmune diseases.