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Open Access Research article

Zfra affects TNF-mediated cell death by interacting with death domain protein TRADD and negatively regulates the activation of NF-κB, JNK1, p53 and WOX1 during stress response

Qunying Hong4, Li-Jin Hsu234, Lori Schultz4, Nicole Pratt4, Jeffrey Mattison4 and Nan-Shan Chang134*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Molecular Medicine, National Cheng Kung University Medical College, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, National Cheng Kung University Medical College, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC

3 Center for Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction Research, National Cheng Kung University Medical College, Tainan, Taiwan 70101, ROC

4 Guthrie Research Institute, Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, 1 Guthrie Square, Sayre, PA 18840, USA

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BMC Molecular Biology 2007, 8:50  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-8-50

Published: 13 June 2007



Zfra is a 31-amino-acid zinc finger-like protein, which is known to regulate cell death by tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and overexpressed TNF receptor- or Fas-associated death domain proteins (TRADD and FADD). In addition, Zfra undergoes self-association and interacts with c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) in response to stress stimuli. To further delineate the functional properties of Zfra, here we investigated Zfra regulation of the activation of p53, WOX1 (WWOX or FOR), NF-κB, and JNK1 under apoptotic stress.


Transiently overexpressed Zfra caused growth suppression and apoptotic death of many but not all types of cells. Zfra either enhanced or blocked cell death caused by TRADD, FADD, or receptor-interacting protein (RIP) in a dose-related manner. This modulation is related with Zfra binding with TRADD, NF-κB, JNK1 and WOX1, as determined by GST pull-down analysis, co-immunoprecipitation, and mapping by yeast two-hybrid analysis. Functionally, transiently overexpressed Zfra sequestered NF-κB (p65), WOX1, p53 and phospho-ERK (extracellular signal-activated kinase) in the cytoplasm, and TNF or UV light could not effectively induce nuclear translocation of these proteins. Zfra counteracted the apoptotic functions of Tyr33-phosphorylated WOX1 and Ser46-phosphorylated p53. Alteration of Ser8 to Gly abolished the apoptotic function of Zfra and its regulation of WOX1 and p53.


In response to TNF, Zfra is upregulated and modulates TNF-mediated cell death via interacting with TRADD, FADD and RIP (death-inducing signaling complex) at the receptor level, and downstream effectors NF-κB, p53, WOX1, and JNK1.