In humans, the IkB kinase (IKK) complex serves as the master regulator for the activation of NF-kB by various stimuli. It contains two catalytic subunits, IKK alpha and IKK beta, and a regulatory subunit, IKKgamma/NEMO. The activation of IKK complex is dependent on the phosphorylation of IKK alpha/beta at its activation loop and the K63-linked ubiquitination of NEMO. This basic trimolecular complex is referred to as the IKK complex.
IKK subunits have a N-term kinase domain a leucine zipper (LZ) motifs, a helix-loop-helix (HLH) and a C-ter NEMO binding domain (NBD). IKK catalytic subunits are dimerized through their LZ motifs. IKK beta is the major IKK catalytic subunit for NF-kB activation. Activated TAK1 phosphorylate IKK beta on S177 and S181 (S176 and S180 in IKK alpha) in the activation loop and thus activate the IKK kinase activity, leading to the IkB alpha phosphorylation and NF-kB activation.