The E3 ubiquitin ligase Pellino 1 can be interconverted between inactive and active forms by a reversible phosphorylation mechanism. In vitro, phosphorylation and activation can be catalysed by either the IRAKs [IL (interleukin)-1-receptor-associated kinases] IRAK1 and IRAK4, or the IKK {IκB [inhibitor of NF-κB (nuclear factor κB)] kinase}-related kinases [IKKϵ and TBK1 (TANK {TRAF [TNF (tumour-necrosis-factor)-receptor-associated factor]-associated NF-κB activator}-binding kinase 1)]. In the present study we establish that IRAK1 is the major protein kinase that mediates the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in MEFs (mouse embryonic fibroblasts) or HEK (human embryonic kidney)-293 cells, whereas the IKK-related kinases activate Pellino 1 in TNFα-stimulated MEFs. The IKK-related kinases are also the major protein kinases that activate Pellino 1 in response to TLR (Toll-like receptor) ligands that signal via the adaptors MyD88 (myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88) and/or TRIF [TIR (Toll/IL-1 receptor) domain-containing adaptor protein inducing interferon β]. The present studies demonstrate that, surprisingly, the ligands that signal via MyD88 do not always employ the same protein kinase to activate Pellino 1. Our results also establish that neither the catalytic activity of IRAK1 nor the activation of Pellino 1 is required for the initial transient activation of NF-κB and MAPKs (mitogen-activated protein kinases) that is triggered by IL-1 or TNFα in MEFs, or by TLR ligands in macrophages. The activation of Pellino 1 provides the first direct readout for IRAK1 catalytic activity in cells.

INTRODUCTION

Pellino was originally discovered in the Toll signalling pathway of Drosophila melanogaster as a protein that interacts with Pelle, the orthogue of IRAK {IL-1R [IL (interleukin)-1-receptor]-associated kinase} in the fly [1]. Three isoforms of Pellino were later identified in mammalian cells, termed Pellino 1, 2 and 3, and shown to interact with IRAK1 and IRAK4 in co-transfection studies [2,3]. We, and others, then showed that the Pellino isoforms are E3 ubiquitin ligases that become competent to catalyse the formation of polyubiquitin chains only when they have been phosphorylated by IRAK1 or IRAK4 in vitro [36]. However, whether IRAK1, IRAK4 or both of these protein kinases are involved in activating the mammalian Pellino isoforms in vivo is unknown.

Progress in understanding the regulation and function of Pellino isoforms has been hampered by a lack of antibodies capable of recognizing and immmunoprecipitating the endogenous proteins. However, we recently generated a Pellino 1-specific antibody and exploited it to show that the level of expression of endogenous Pellino 1 is greatly increased when macrophages are stimulated with the TLR (Toll-like receptor) 4 ligand LPS (lipopolysaccharide) or the TLR3 ligand poly(I:C) [7]. Surprisingly, these agonists were found to stimulate the expression of Pellino 1 mRNA and protein by a signalling pathway dependent on the adaptor protein TRIF [TIR (Toll/IL-1 receptor) domain-containing adaptor protein inducing interferon β], but independent of the MyD88 (myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88)-dependent signalling pathway in which IRAK1 and IRAK4 participate. Further analysis revealed that the TRIF-dependent induction of Pellino 1 mRNA (HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee name PELI1) was mediated by the transcription factor IRF3 (interferon regulatory factor 3), which is activated in this pathway by the IKK {IκB [inhibitor of NF-κB (nuclear factor κB)] kinase}-related kinases IKKϵ and TBK1 (TANK {TRAF [TNF (tumour-necrosis-factor)-receptor-associated factor]-associated NF-κB activator}-binding kinase 1). Moreover, we found that the IKK-related kinases also catalysed the phosphorylation and activation of the endogenous Pellino 1 in LPS- or poly(I:C)-stimulated macrophages [7].

These findings raised the further question of whether other TLR ligands and inflammatory stimuli activate Pellino 1 via the IKK-related kinases, or whether they activate Pellino 1 via one or more members of the IRAK family or additional protein kinases. In the present paper, we establish that IRAK1 is the major protein kinase that catalyses the activation of Pellino 1 in IL-1-stimulated MEFs (mouse embryonic fibroblasts) and that, surprisingly, it is the IKK-related kinases, and not the IRAKs, which activate Pellino 1 when macrophages are stimulated with TLR ligands that signal via MyD88. We further demonstrate that the IKK-related kinases also mediate the activation of Pellino 1 by TNFα.

EXPERIMENTAL

Materials

The TAK1 [TGF (transforming growth factor)-β-activated kinase 1] inhibitor 5Z-7-oxozeanol [8] was purchased from Bioaustralis Fine Chemicals and staurosporine was from LC Laboratories, whereas the TBK1/IKKϵ inhibitor MRT67307 [9] was synthesized by Dr Natalia Shpiro (MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, U.K.). The JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase) inhibitor JNK-IN-8 and the JNK/IRAK1 inhibitor JNK-IN-7 were synthesized as described previously [10] and were provided by Nathanael Gray and Tinghu Zhang (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, U.S.A.). Compounds were dissolved and stored at −20°C as 10 mM solutions in DMSO. Mouse IL-1α and mouse TNFα were purchased from Sigma and used to stimulate MEFs. Human IL-1β was expressed and purified as described previously [11] and used to stimulate human IL-1R cells. FLAG-tagged ubiquitin was from Boston Chemicals, whereas the TLR1/2 ligands Pam3CSK4 and R837 were from Invivogen. UBE1 (ubiquitin-like modifier activating enzyme 1) and the Ubc13 (E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 13)–Uev1a (ubiquitin conjugating enzyme variant 1a) complex, used for the assay of Pellino 1, were expressed and purified by the Protein Production and Assay Development team of the Protein Ubiquitylation Unit at Dundee (http://scills.ac.uk) co-ordinated by Dr Axel Knebel.

Antibodies

Anti-FLAG and anti-(α-tubulin) antibodies were purchased from Sigma, and antibodies that recognize p105/NFκB1 phosphorylated at Ser933, p38α MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) phosphorylated at Thr180 and Tyr182, JNKs phosphorylated at Thr183 and Tyr185, TBK1 phosphorylated at Thr172, and further antibodies that recognize TBK1 and IKKϵ were from Cell Signalling Technology. Anti-TAK1 and anti-IRAK1 antibodies were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology. Characterization of the anti-(Pellino 1) antibody has been described previously [7].

Generation of IRAK1[D358A] mice

To generate mice in which wild-type IRAK1 was replaced by a catalytically inactive mutant, Asp358 in the DGF motif was mutated to alanine. Asp358 is encoded in exon 9 of the mouse Irak1 gene, and a targeting vector was constructed to introduce the required mutation. The vector consisted of a 5′ arm of homology followed by a loxP site, then a pCMV-puro-pA marker that was flanked by F3 sites (a mutant form of frt). This was followed by the genomic sequence that contained exon 9 (with the D358A mutation) and exon 10 of the Irak1 gene, then an frt-flanked neomycin-selectable marker, another loxP site, the 3′ arm of homology and finally a thymidine kinase cassette to allow negative selection (Figure 1). The neomycin marker consisted of a pGK promoter, the neomycin-resistance gene open reading frame, an IRES (internal ribosome entry site) sequence, an in-frame start codon and the splice donor site from exon 10 of IRAK1. This selection cassette acts as a polyA trap and also allows an RT (reverse transcription)-based RNA screen for homologous recombination. The three arms of homology to the IRAK1 locus were generated by PCR for an appropriate murine BAC clone using the primers listed in Supplementary Figure S1 (at http://www.BiochemJ.org/bj/441/bj4410339add.htm). All PCR products were fully sequenced to ensure the absence of PCR-generated mutations.

Targeting strategy to generate the IRAK1[D358A] knockin mouse

Figure 1
Targeting strategy to generate the IRAK1[D358A] knockin mouse

The mouse IRAK1 locus consists of 14 exons, with Asp358 encoded in exon 9. A potential exon that may give rise to splicing isoforms exists between exons 11 and 12 (white rectangle). The targeting vector used to generate the knockin, consisting of arms of homology to IRAK1 as well as thymidine kinase (TK), puromycin (puro-pA) and polyA trap neomycin (neo-IRES) selectable markers, is shown. The positions of the loxP (white triangles), F3 (grey triangles) and frt (black triangles) recombinase sites are indicated. ES cells were targeted with this vector and PCR-screened by analysis of genomic DNA for incorporation of the puromycin and neomycin markers using the primers P1–P3 and N1–N3 respectively. Homologous recombination was confirmed using an RT–PCR screen using the primers R1 and R2. Once knockin mice were generated using the targeted ES cells, the selectable markers were removed by crossing to Flp transgenic mice.

Figure 1
Targeting strategy to generate the IRAK1[D358A] knockin mouse

The mouse IRAK1 locus consists of 14 exons, with Asp358 encoded in exon 9. A potential exon that may give rise to splicing isoforms exists between exons 11 and 12 (white rectangle). The targeting vector used to generate the knockin, consisting of arms of homology to IRAK1 as well as thymidine kinase (TK), puromycin (puro-pA) and polyA trap neomycin (neo-IRES) selectable markers, is shown. The positions of the loxP (white triangles), F3 (grey triangles) and frt (black triangles) recombinase sites are indicated. ES cells were targeted with this vector and PCR-screened by analysis of genomic DNA for incorporation of the puromycin and neomycin markers using the primers P1–P3 and N1–N3 respectively. Homologous recombination was confirmed using an RT–PCR screen using the primers R1 and R2. Once knockin mice were generated using the targeted ES cells, the selectable markers were removed by crossing to Flp transgenic mice.

The targeting vector was used to generate mutant ES (embryonic stem) cells as described previously [12]. Briefly, the vector was electroporated into E14 (E is embryonic day) Sv129J ES cells. ES cells were then grown under positive selection with puromycin and G418, and negative selection with ganciclovir. Resistant colonies were picked, expanded and screened for the presence of the knockin mutation at the IRAK1 locus. To ensure incorporation of the puromycin- and neomycin-selectable markers, a PCR of genomic DNA was used (Figure 1). To screen for homologous recombination at the IRAK1 locus, total RNA was isolated and screened by RT–PCR, using a primer in the IRES sequence and a primer in an IRAK1 exon 3′ to the targeting vector (Figure 1). This PCR resulted in a 710 bp product, whose identity was confirmed by sequencing. Primer sequences are shown in Supplementary Figure S1.

Positive ES cells were used to generate chimaeric mice as described previously [12]. Chimaeric mice giving germ-line transmission were bred to C57/Bl6 Flp transgenic mice to excise the two selectable markers, whose deletion was confirmed by PCR screening (Figure 1). Routine genotyping of the mice was carried out using the same primers. All mice were maintained under specific pathogen-free conditions and housed in accordance with United Kingdom and European Union law. Work was carried out under a United Kingdom Home Office license and was subject to and approved by local ethical review.

Cell culture

MEFs from the IRAK1[D358A] mice, Pellino 1[F397A] mice and wild-type control mice were isolated at embryonic developmental stage E12/13 and cultured in DMEM (Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium) containing heat-inactivated 10% (v/v) FBS (foetal bovine serum), 1% (v/v) penicillin/streptomycin solution, 2 mM L-glutamine, 1 mM sodium pyruvate, 0.1 mM non-essential amino acids and 0.05 mM 2-mercaptoethanol. For immortalization, primary MEFs that had been passaged seven to eight times were further passaged one into two when reaching 90% confluency, until the cells started to grow again at a normal rate. Immortalized MEFs from mice expressing a truncated inactive form of TAK1 [13], and from double-knockout mice that do not express TBK1 and IKKϵ, were produced as described previously [14]. All immortalized cell lines were cultured at 37°C in DMEM containing 10% FBS and antibiotics (100 units/ml penicillin and 100 μg/ml streptomycin) in a humidified atmosphere containing 5% CO2. Primary BMDMs (bone-marrow-derived macrophages) were generated from the bone marrow of mice as described previously [7], except that they were cultured in DMEM containing 20% L929-preconditioned medium, 10% heat-inactivated FBS, antibiotics (100 units/ml penicillin and 100 μg/ml streptomycin), 1 mM sodium pyruvate, 0.2 mM 2-mercaptoethanol and non-essential amino acids at the concentrations recommended by the manufacturer (Gibco). The transformed macrophage cell line RAW264.7 was obtained from the A.T.C.C., whereas HEK (human embryonic kidney)-293 cells stably expressing the IL-1R, termed IL-1R cells, and IRAK1-null IL-1R cells were kindly provided by Xiaoxia Li and George Stark (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH, U.S.A.).

Cell stimulation, cell lysis and immunoblotting

Pharmacological inhibitors dissolved in DMSO or an equal volume of DMSO for control incubations were added to the culture medium of cells grown as monolayers, incubated for 1 h and then stimulated with 10 ng/ml IL-1β, 5 ng/ml IL-1α, 10 ng/ml TNFα or 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4 for the times indicated in the Figure legends. All incubations were carried out at 37°C in a humidified atmosphere containing 5% CO2. Thereafter, cells were washed in ice-cold PBS, extracted in lysis buffer [50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.4), 1 mM EDTA, 1 mM EGTA, 50 mM sodium fluoride, 5 mM sodium pyrophosphate, 1 mM sodium orthovanadate, 10 mM sodium 2-glycerophosphate, 0.27 M sucrose, 1% (v/v) Triton X-100, 1 mM dithiothreitol, 1 mM PMSF and 1 mM benzamidine], centrifuged for 15 min at 13000 g at 4°C and the supernatant, termed the cell extract, was removed. Protein concentrations in the cell extracts were determined using the Bradford [14a] procedure. For immunoblotting, cell extracts (20 μg of protein) were separated by SDS/PAGE, transferred on to PVDF membranes and immunoblotted using the ECL (enhanced chemiluminescence) system (GE Healthcare).

Immunoprecipitation of Pellino 1 and assay of its E3 ligase activity

Cell extract protein (2 mg) was incubated for 16 h at 4°C with 1 μg of anti-(Pellino 1) antibody attached to Protein G–Sepharose (7.5 μl packed beads) on a rotating wheel. The beads were collected by brief centrifugation (2 min at 780 g at 4°C), washed three times with 0.5 ml of 50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.5), 1% (v/v) Triton X-100, 0.05% 2-mercaptoethanol and 0.2 M NaCl, and once with 50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.5) and 5 mM MgCl2.

The supernatant from the last wash was removed and the immunoprecipitated Pellino 1 was resuspended in 20 μl of 50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.5), 5 mM MgCl2, 0.1 μM UBE1, 0.05 μM Ubc13–Uev1a, 0.05 mM FLAG–ubiquitin and 2 mM ATP, and in the presence of the non-specific protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine (75 μM) to prevent any phosphorylation and activation of Pellino 1 during the assay by protein kinases present in the immunoprecipitates as trace contaminants. The reactions were incubated for 60 min at 30°C and terminated by denaturation in SDS. Following SDS/PAGE to separate the unanchored Lys63-polyubiquitin chains formed in this assay and transfer on to PVDF membranes, immunoblotting was carried out using an anti-FLAG antibody to detect the formation of the polyubiquitin chains.

RESULTS

IRAK1 is required for the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in human IL-1R cells

We initially studied whether endogenous Pellino 1 could be activated by IL-1β in human IL-1R cells. IL-1β stimulated a rapid conversion of Pellino 1 from an inactive into an active E3 ubiquitin ligase in these cells, which was maximal within 10 min and sustained for at least 1 h. In contrast, IL-1β was unable to activate Pellino 1 in IRAK1-null IL-1R cells (Figure 2A). In IRAK1-null IL-1R cells, stimulation with IL-1β did not induce any activation of the canonical IKKs (IKKα or IKKβ), as judged by the lack of phosphorylation of their substrate p105/NFκB1 (Figure 2A), or the activation of p38 MAPK and JNK [15], making it impossible to decide whether the activation of Pellino 1 had been catalysed directly by IRAK1 or by another protein kinase whose activation was dependent on the presence of the IRAK1 protein. We therefore inhibited all of the protein kinases known to be activated ‘downstream’ of IRAK1 by incubating the cells with 5Z-7-oxozeaenol, an inhibitor of the protein kinase TAK1, which prevents the activation of its downstream targets, namely the canonical IKKs, IKKα and IKKβ, and the MAPK kinases that activate p38 MAPKs and JNKs [8]. We also carried out these experiments in the presence and absence of MRT67307, an inhibitor of the IKK-related kinases IKKϵ and TBK1, at concentrations that completely inhibit these enzymes in cells [9]. These studies showed that the IL-1β-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 was unimpaired in IL-1R cells incubated with 5Z-7-oxozeaenol plus MRT67307 (Figure 2B), consistent with the phosphorylation of Pellino 1 being catalysed directly by IRAK1.

Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells

Figure 2
Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells

(A) IRAK1-null IL-1R cells (IRAK1−/−, lanes 1–5) and IL-1R cells (IRAK1+/+, lanes 6–10) were stimulated with 10 ng/ml human IL-1β for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and its ability to form unanchored polyubiquitin chains was measured in a ubiquitylation assay using FLAG–ubiquitin as described in the Experimental section. The reactions were terminated by denaturation in SDS, and after SDS/PAGE and transfer on to PVDF membranes, the gels were immunoblotted with an anti-FLAG antibody to detect the polyubiquitin chains formed (top panel). Aliquots of the cell extracts were also subjected to SDS/PAGE followed by immunoblotting with the antibodies indicated (bottom four panels). (B) IL-1R cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307 or 1 μM 5Z-7-oxozeanol, or both compounds, before stimulation for 15 min without (−) or with (+) 10 ng/ml IL-1β. The cells were lysed and the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of Pellino 1 was measured as described in (A). Cell extracts were immunoblotted as described in (A). All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

Figure 2
Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells

(A) IRAK1-null IL-1R cells (IRAK1−/−, lanes 1–5) and IL-1R cells (IRAK1+/+, lanes 6–10) were stimulated with 10 ng/ml human IL-1β for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and its ability to form unanchored polyubiquitin chains was measured in a ubiquitylation assay using FLAG–ubiquitin as described in the Experimental section. The reactions were terminated by denaturation in SDS, and after SDS/PAGE and transfer on to PVDF membranes, the gels were immunoblotted with an anti-FLAG antibody to detect the polyubiquitin chains formed (top panel). Aliquots of the cell extracts were also subjected to SDS/PAGE followed by immunoblotting with the antibodies indicated (bottom four panels). (B) IL-1R cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307 or 1 μM 5Z-7-oxozeanol, or both compounds, before stimulation for 15 min without (−) or with (+) 10 ng/ml IL-1β. The cells were lysed and the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of Pellino 1 was measured as described in (A). Cell extracts were immunoblotted as described in (A). All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

The catalytic activity of IRAK1 is required for the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in MEFs

To investigate whether IRAK1 catalytic activity was required for the activation of Pellino 1, we generated mice that expressed the catalytically inactive IRAK1[D358A] mutant instead of the wild-type protein (Figure 1). These knockin mice were born at normal Mendelian frequencies, were of normal size and weight and did not spontaneously develop any obvious phenotype. The IRAK1[D358A] mutant was expressed at a lower level than the wild-type protein in MEFs or BMDMs, as indicated in some of the Figures presented later in the paper. The IL-1α-stimulated increase in the phosphorylation of the IKKβ substrate p105/NFκB1 or the phosphorylation (activation) of p38 MAPK and JNKs was equally strong and slightly more prolonged in immortalized MEFs from IRAK1[D358A] mice as compared with MEFs from wild-type mice, but the activation of Pellino 1 was greatly reduced (Figure 3A). The IL-1α-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 was reversed by treatment with a protein phosphatase (Figure 3B), showing that activation had been triggered by a phosphorylation event.

Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in MEFs

Figure 3
Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in MEFs

MEFs were stimulated with 5 ng/ml mouse IL-1α for the times indicated (A) or for 30 min (B, C and D). The cells were lysed and endogenous Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. Aliquots of the cell lysates were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and analysed by immunoblotting with the antibodies indicated. (A) Experiments were carried out with MEFs from control wild-type (WT) mice and MEFs from IRAK1[D358A] mice. (B) Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the extracts of unstimulated or IL-1α-stimulated MEFs, followed by incubation for 30 min at 30°C without (−) or with (+) 100 units of phage λgt10 phosphatase. After washing three times in 50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.5) and 5 mM MgCl2, the immunoprecipitated Pellino 1 was assayed for E3 ligase activity. (C) Control wild-type MEFs and MEFs expressing a truncated inactive form of TAK1 (ΔTAK1) were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, and then stimulated without (−) or with (+) IL-1α. (D) MEFs expressing only one allele of TBK1 and one allele of IKKϵ (IKKϵ/TBK1+/−) or MEFs deficient in both alleles (IKKϵ/TBK1−/−) were stimulated without (−) or with (+) IL-1α. All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

Figure 3
Evidence that IRAK1 catalyses the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in MEFs

MEFs were stimulated with 5 ng/ml mouse IL-1α for the times indicated (A) or for 30 min (B, C and D). The cells were lysed and endogenous Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. Aliquots of the cell lysates were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and analysed by immunoblotting with the antibodies indicated. (A) Experiments were carried out with MEFs from control wild-type (WT) mice and MEFs from IRAK1[D358A] mice. (B) Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the extracts of unstimulated or IL-1α-stimulated MEFs, followed by incubation for 30 min at 30°C without (−) or with (+) 100 units of phage λgt10 phosphatase. After washing three times in 50 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.5) and 5 mM MgCl2, the immunoprecipitated Pellino 1 was assayed for E3 ligase activity. (C) Control wild-type MEFs and MEFs expressing a truncated inactive form of TAK1 (ΔTAK1) were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, and then stimulated without (−) or with (+) IL-1α. (D) MEFs expressing only one allele of TBK1 and one allele of IKKϵ (IKKϵ/TBK1+/−) or MEFs deficient in both alleles (IKKϵ/TBK1−/−) were stimulated without (−) or with (+) IL-1α. All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

We have generated mice in which wild-type Pellino 1 is replaced by the E3-ligase inactive mutant Pellino 1[F397A] (K. Enesa, J.S.C. Arthur and P. Cohen, unpublished work). This mutant is less stable than wild-type Pellino 1 in vivo, explaining why it is expressed at much lower levels than wild-type Pellino 1 in cells. We found that Pellino 1 immunoprecipitated from MEFs expressing the Pellino 1[F397A] mutant had no E3 ligase activity (Supplementary Figure S2A at http://www.BiochemJ.org/bj/441/bj4410339add.htm). Similarly, no E3 ligase activity could be detected if the Pellino 1 antibody was replaced by a control IgG (Supplementary Figure S2B). These studies indicated that the E3 ligase activity being measured after immunoprecipitation of Pellino 1 was indeed catalysed by Pellino 1 and not by another E3 ligase present in the immunoprecipitates as a contaminant.

Interestingly, Pellino 1 was consistently expressed at a significantly higher level in immortalized MEFs from the IRAK1[D358A] mice than in MEFs from wild-type mice (Figure 3A), and was also present at higher levels in the IRAK1-null IL-1R cells than in IL-1R cells (Figure 2A). These observations suggest that IRAK1 catalytic activity may control the level of expression of Pellino 1 protein in these cells.

We next studied the activation of Pellino 1 by IL-1α in immortalized MEFs expressing a truncated inactive form of TAK1. IL-1α stimulation did not activate the canonical IKKs and MAPKs in these MEFs as expected [13], but still induced a robust activation of Pellino 1 (Figure 3C). The IKK-related kinases are still activated by IL-1α in TAK1-deficient MEFs [9], but the further addition of MRT67307 to these cells at concentrations that obliterate IKKϵ and TBK1 activity [9] had no effect on the IL-1α-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 (Figure 3C). Similarly, the combined addition of the TAK1 inhibitor 5Z-7-oxozeaenol and the IKKϵ/TBK1 inhibitor MRT67307 also had no effect on the IL-1α-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in wild-type MEFs (Supplementary Figure S3 at http://www.BiochemJ.org/bj/441/bj4410339add.htm). Moreover, the IL-1α-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 was similar in immortalized MEFs from wild-type mice and mice that do not express the IKK-related kinases (Figure 3D).

The IKK-related kinases mediate the activation of Pellino 1 by TLR ligands that signal via MyD88

We have shown previously that the IKK-related kinases (IKKϵ and TBK1) are the major protein kinases in the RAW264.7 macrophage cell line that mediate the activation of Pellino 1 by the TLR3 ligand poly(I:C), which signals via the adaptor TRIF and the TLR4 ligand LPS, which signals via both TRIF and the adaptor MyD88 [7]. To investigate which protein kinases activate Pellino 1 in response to TLR ligands that only signal via MyD88, we stimulated the RAW264.7 macrophage-like cell line with Pam3CSK4, a ligand that activates the TLR1/2 heterodimer, and with R837, a ligand that activates TLR7. The Pam3CSK4-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 was detectable after 15 min and maximal at 20–30 min. The activation occurred more slowly than the canonical IKKs, as judged by the phosphorylation of p105/NFκB1, but correlated with the activation of the IKK-related kinase TBK1 (Figure 4A). The inclusion of MRT67307 in the culture medium, to inhibit IKKϵ/TBK1, greatly reduced the activation of Pellino 1, suggesting that the IKK-related kinases were the major Pellino 1 kinases in Pam3CSK4-stimulated RAW264.7 cells (Figure 4B). Similar results were obtained when RAW264.7 cells were stimulated with the TLR7 ligand R837 (Supplementary Figure S4 at http://www.BiochemJ.org/bj/441/bj4410339add.htm).

IKK-related kinases mediate the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in macrophages by the TLR1/2 ligand Pam3CSK4

Figure 4
IKK-related kinases mediate the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in macrophages by the TLR1/2 ligand Pam3CSK4

(A) RAW264.7 macrophages were stimulated with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4 for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. (B) As in (A), except that the cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307 prior to stimulation for 30 min without (−) or with (+) Pam3CSK4. (C) Primary BMDMs were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, followed by stimulation with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4 for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity (see the Experimental section). (D) Primary BMDMs from wild-type (WT) mice or IRAK1[D358A] mice were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, and then stimulated for 30 min with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity. The cell extracts in (AD) were subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. The experiments reported in (AC) were performed at least three times with similar results. The experiment in (D) was a single experiment in which BMDMs were isolated from three different wild-type mice and three different IRAK1[D358A] mice. p-, phospho.

Figure 4
IKK-related kinases mediate the activation of endogenous Pellino 1 in macrophages by the TLR1/2 ligand Pam3CSK4

(A) RAW264.7 macrophages were stimulated with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4 for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. (B) As in (A), except that the cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307 prior to stimulation for 30 min without (−) or with (+) Pam3CSK4. (C) Primary BMDMs were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, followed by stimulation with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4 for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity (see the Experimental section). (D) Primary BMDMs from wild-type (WT) mice or IRAK1[D358A] mice were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, and then stimulated for 30 min with 1 μg/ml Pam3CSK4. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity. The cell extracts in (AD) were subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. The experiments reported in (AC) were performed at least three times with similar results. The experiment in (D) was a single experiment in which BMDMs were isolated from three different wild-type mice and three different IRAK1[D358A] mice. p-, phospho.

The inclusion of MRT67307 in the culture medium also suppressed the activation of Pellino 1 by Pam3CSK4 in primary BMDMs (Figure 4C). As expected, MRT67307 enhanced the Pam3CSK4-stimulated phosphorylation of p105/NFκB1 (Figures 4B and 4C), because one of the roles of the IKK-related kinases in this pathway is to inhibit the canonical IKKs [9]. In primary BMDMs from the IRAK1[D358A] knockin mice, Pam3CSK4 induced a similar activation of Pellino 1 to that observed in BMDMs from wild-type mice, if account is taken of the lower level of expression of the IRAK1[D358A] mutant in BMDMs from the knockin mice. The activation of Pellino 1 in BMDMs from the IRAK1[D358A] knockin mice was largely prevented by MRT67307 (Figure 4D). The Pam3CSK4-stimulated phosphorylation of p105/NFκB1, p38 MAPK and JNKs was similar in BMDMs from IRAK1[D358A] and wild-type mice (Figure 4D).

Pharmacological inhibition of IRAK1

Two compounds, termed JNK-IN-8 and JNK-IN-7, have recently been developed and characterized [10]. These compounds are structurally very similar, but whereas the former is a specific covalent inhibitor of JNKs, the latter inhibits IRAK1 as well as JNK in vitro. Neither compound inhibits IRAK4 [10]. Consistent with these findings, both compounds suppressed the IL-1β-stimulated phosphorylation of c-Jun in IL-1R cells, an established substrate of the JNKs, but only JNK-IN-7 inhibited the activation of Pellino 1 (Figure 5A). JNK-IN-7 also prevented the phosphorylation of c-Jun in Pam3CSK4-stimulated RAW macrophages, but in contrast with IL-1R cells it did not affect the activation of Pellino 1 (Figure 5B). This is consistent with phosphorylation being catalysed by the IKK-related kinases, rather than IRAK1. The covalent attachment of JNK-IN-7 and JNK-IN-8 to the JNK isoforms caused a small retardation in the electrophoretic mobility of the JNK isoforms (Figure 5).

The IRAK1 inhibitor JNK-IN-7 prevents the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells, but not the Pam3CSK4-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in RAW264.7 macrophages

Figure 5
The IRAK1 inhibitor JNK-IN-7 prevents the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells, but not the Pam3CSK4-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in RAW264.7 macrophages

(A) IL-1R cells were either incubated for 1 h with the indicated concentrations of the IRAK1/JNK inhibitor JNK-IN-7, the structurally related JNK inhibitor JNK-IN-8 that does not inhibit IRAK1, or in the absence of either inhibitor. The cells were stimulated for 7.5 min with 10 ng/ml human IL-1β before lysis. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. (B) RAW264.7 cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 10 μM JNK-IN-7 and then stimulated for 30 min with Pam3CSK4. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity. Aliquots of the cell extracts in (A and B) were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. Similar results were obtained in two independent experiments. p-, phospho.

Figure 5
The IRAK1 inhibitor JNK-IN-7 prevents the IL-1-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in IL-1R cells, but not the Pam3CSK4-stimulated activation of Pellino 1 in RAW264.7 macrophages

(A) IL-1R cells were either incubated for 1 h with the indicated concentrations of the IRAK1/JNK inhibitor JNK-IN-7, the structurally related JNK inhibitor JNK-IN-8 that does not inhibit IRAK1, or in the absence of either inhibitor. The cells were stimulated for 7.5 min with 10 ng/ml human IL-1β before lysis. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. (B) RAW264.7 cells were incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 10 μM JNK-IN-7 and then stimulated for 30 min with Pam3CSK4. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity. Aliquots of the cell extracts in (A and B) were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. Similar results were obtained in two independent experiments. p-, phospho.

The IKK-related kinases mediate the TNFα-stimulated activation of Pellino 1

To our knowledge, whether the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα stimulates the activation of a Pellino isoform has not been studied previously. It was therefore of interest to examine whether TNFα activated Pellino 1 in MEFs and, if so, which protein kinase mediated this effect, as TNFα does not signal via TRIF, MyD88 or the IRAKs, but instead via a distinct adaptor, termed TRADD (TNF-receptor-type-1-associated death domain protein). We found that TNFα stimulated a robust activation of Pellino 1, which could be observed after 10 min and was maximal between 20 and 30 min (Figure 6A). The TNFα-induced activation of Pellino 1 was abolished by the inclusion of MRT67307 in the cell culture medium (Figure 6B) and did not occur in MEFs that do not express the IKK-related kinases (Figure 6C).

The IKK-related kinases mediate the TNFα-stimulated activation of the Pellino 1 E3 ligase activity in MEFs

Figure 6
The IKK-related kinases mediate the TNFα-stimulated activation of the Pellino 1 E3 ligase activity in MEFs

(A and B) Wild-type MEFs were stimulated with 10 ng/ml TNFα for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. The cell extracts were subjected to SDS/PAGE, and immunoblotting was performed with the antibodies indicated. (B) MEFs were first incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, before stimulation for 20 min without (−) or with (+) TNFα. (C) MEFs expressing only one allele of TBK1 and one allele of IKKϵ (IKKϵ/TBK1+/−) or MEFs deficient in both alleles (IKKϵ/TBK1−/−) were stimulated for 20 min without (−) or with (+) 10 ng/ml TNFα. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Aliquots of the cell extracts in (AC) were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

Figure 6
The IKK-related kinases mediate the TNFα-stimulated activation of the Pellino 1 E3 ligase activity in MEFs

(A and B) Wild-type MEFs were stimulated with 10 ng/ml TNFα for the times indicated. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ligase activity as described in the Experimental section. The cell extracts were subjected to SDS/PAGE, and immunoblotting was performed with the antibodies indicated. (B) MEFs were first incubated for 1 h without (−) or with (+) 2 μM MRT67307, before stimulation for 20 min without (−) or with (+) TNFα. (C) MEFs expressing only one allele of TBK1 and one allele of IKKϵ (IKKϵ/TBK1+/−) or MEFs deficient in both alleles (IKKϵ/TBK1−/−) were stimulated for 20 min without (−) or with (+) 10 ng/ml TNFα. Pellino 1 was immunoprecipitated from the cell extracts and assayed for E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Aliquots of the cell extracts in (AC) were also subjected to SDS/PAGE and immunoblotted with the antibodies indicated. All of the experiments described in this Figure were performed at least three times with similar results. p-, phospho.

DISCUSSION

In the present study, we have exploited pharmacological inhibitors and mouse cells deficient in particular protein kinases to define which of these enzymes activates Pellino 1 in the innate immune system. IRAK1 has been identified as the major protein kinase that mediates the activation of Pellino 1 by IL-1 in MEFs or human IL-1R cells, whereas the IKK-related kinases (IKKϵ and TBK1) are the major enzymes mediating the activation of Pellino 1 by TNFα in MEFs or by TLR-activating ligands in BMDMs, irrespective of whether the TLR ligand signals via MyD88, TRIF or both adaptors (Figure 7) [7]. The IRAK1-catalysed activation of Pellino 1 in IL-1-stimulated MEFs provides the first direct read-out for IRAK1 catalytic activity in cells.

Protein kinases that activate Pellino 1 in fibroblasts and macrophages in response to different ligands

Figure 7
Protein kinases that activate Pellino 1 in fibroblasts and macrophages in response to different ligands

TNFR1, TNF receptor 1; TRAF6, TNF-receptor-associated factor 6. All other abbreviations have been used in the text and are defined in the abbreviations footnote.

Figure 7
Protein kinases that activate Pellino 1 in fibroblasts and macrophages in response to different ligands

TNFR1, TNF receptor 1; TRAF6, TNF-receptor-associated factor 6. All other abbreviations have been used in the text and are defined in the abbreviations footnote.

The finding that TLR ligands and IL-1, which both signal via MyD88, employ different protein kinases to activate Pellino 1 was surprising since these agonists all employ the IRAK isoforms to drive downstream signalling events. It would therefore be of considerable interest to know whether this is a cell-specific difference and, if not, how and why Pellino 1 selects different kinases for its activation by particular agonists in the same cell. The structure of the N-terminal portion of Pellino 2 has been elucidated and comprises an FHA (Forkhead-associated) domain and a region of anti-parallel β-sheet, termed the ‘wing appendage’, that loops out from the FHA domain [16]. This is followed by a C-terminal RING (really interesting new gene)-like domain [3] that carries the E3 ligase activity of Pellino 1. FHA domains are known to bind phosphothreonine residues in proteins [17], and the active autophosphorylated form of IRAK1, and not a catalytically inactive mutant, was found to interact with Pellino isoforms in co-transfection/co-immunoprecipitation experiments [3]. This suggests that autophosphorylated IRAK1 may be recruited to the FHA domain, enabling it to phosphorylate the key activating sites, which are located on the ‘wing appendage’ and immediately N-terminal to the RING domain [6]. One or more phosphorylation sites on the IKK-related kinases may also lead to their recruitment to the FHA domain of Pellino 1. Stimulation of MEFs with TNFα induces the phosphorylation and activation of the IKK-related kinases [18], but not IRAK1, which can explain why the IKK-related kinases activate Pellino 1 when MEFs are stimulated with this ligand. However, ligands that signal via MyD88 activate IRAK1 as well as the IKK-related kinases. In this situation, perhaps the different states of phosphorylation of IRAK1 and the IKK-related kinases and/or differences of the precise sites of phosphorylation in MEFs and macrophages may determine which protein kinase is recruited preferentially to the FHA domain of Pellino 1. Whether IRAK1, the IKK-related kinases or additional protein kinases activate Pellino 2 and Pellino 3 in response to these or other agonists is unknown, and the generation of antibodies that selectively immunoprecipitate Pellino 2 or 3 from cell extracts will be needed to address this question.

It is clear from the results of the present study that neither the catalytic activity of IRAK1 nor the activation of Pellino 1 is required for the initial transient activation of the protein kinases, triggered by ligands that signal via MyD88 (IL-1 or Pam3CSK4) or by TNFα, raising the question of what roles the catalytic activities of IRAK1 and Pellino 1 play in vivo.

In Drosophila, Pellino has been shown to function in the production of the anti-bacterial peptide Drosomycin [19], but the roles of Pellino isoforms in mammalian cells are unknown. We have begun to address this issue by generating knockin mice in which each of the wild-type Pellino isoforms have been replaced by E3 ligase inactive mutants. Consistent with our finding that Pellino 1 is activated and induced by the poly(I:C)-TLR3-TRIF-TBK1/IKKϵ-IRF3 signalling pathway in macrophages [7], we have recently found that Pellino 1 functions to control the transcription of the interferon β gene and hence interferon β secretion by this pathway (K. Enesa and P. Cohen, unpublished work). However, the activation of the IKK-related kinases in the MyD88 pathway does not lead to the phosphorylation and activation of IRF3 or interferon β production, but instead plays an important role in limiting the extent of activation of the canonical IKKs [9,20]. This may help to prevent the overproduction of inflammatory mediators that might otherwise lead to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, as indicated by autoimmunity in mice that do not express TANK, a major binding partner for IKKϵ and TBK1 [21]. Once activated by the IKK-related kinases, Pellino 1 may therefore also play a role in limiting the strength of MyD88 signalling by regulating another step of the pathway that has yet to be identified.

Abbreviations

     
  • BMDM

    bone-marrow-derived macrophage

  •  
  • DMEM

    Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium

  •  
  • E

    embryonic day

  •  
  • ES

    embryonic stem

  •  
  • FBS

    fetal bovine serum

  •  
  • FHA

    Forkhead-associated

  •  
  • IKK

    IκB (inhibitor of nuclear factor κB) kinase

  •  
  • IL

    interleukin

  •  
  • IL-1R

    IL-1 receptor

  •  
  • IRAK

    IL-1R-associated kinase

  •  
  • IRES

    internal ribosome entry site

  •  
  • IRF3

    interferon regulatory factor 3

  •  
  • JNK

    c-Jun N-terminal kinase

  •  
  • LPS

    lipopolysaccharide

  •  
  • MAPK

    mitogen-activated protein kinase

  •  
  • MEF

    mouse embryonic fibroblast

  •  
  • MyD88

    myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88

  •  
  • NF-κB

    nuclear factor κB

  •  
  • RING

    really interesting new gene

  •  
  • RT

    reverse transcription

  •  
  • TAK1

    TGF (transforming growth factor)-β-activated kinase 1

  •  
  • TANK

    TRAF (tumour-necrosis-factor-receptor-associated factor)-associated NF-κB activator

  •  
  • TBK1

    TANK-binding kinase 1

  •  
  • TLR

    Toll-like receptor

  •  
  • TNF

    tumour necrosis factor

  •  
  • TRIF

    TIR (Toll/IL-1 receptor) domain-containing adaptor protein inducing interferon β

  •  
  • Ubc13

    E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 13

  •  
  • UBE1

    ubiquitin-like modifier activating enzyme 1

  •  
  • Uev1a

    ubiquitin conjugating enzyme variant 1a

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTION

Eddy Goh performed the experiments presented in Figures 2–6 and in Supplementary Figures S2–S4. Simon Arthur designed and Rachel Toth made the targeting vector. Shizuo Akira provided the MEFs expressing a truncated inactive form of TAK1 (ΔTAK1) and MEFs that do not express TBK1 and IKKϵ. Peter Cheung provided the Pellino 1 antibody and valuable suggestions. Eddy Goh and Philip Cohen designed the experiments in Figures 2–6 and Supplementary Figures S2–S4, and wrote the paper.

We thank Nathanael Gray and Tinghu Zhang (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, U.S.A.) for providing the compounds JNK-IN-7 and JNK-IN-8, and Xiaoxia Li and George Stark (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH, U.S.A.) for providing the IL-1R and IRAK1-null IL-1R cells. We acknowledge the help of the Transgenic Mouse Service (College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, U.K.) in making the IRAK1[D358A] mice.

FUNDING

This work was supported by the UK Medical Research Council, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck-Serono and Pfizer.

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Supplementary data