The exact physiological role of NF-kappaB-inducing kinase (NIK) in the NF-kappaB activation pathway has not been defined, although it is an upstream kinase of IKKalpha. Recent studies have indicated that IKKalpha is a nucleosomal modifier of NF-kappaB signaling. We hypothesized that NIK generates a proximal signal that contributes to IKKalpha modification of nucleosomal structure through phosphorylation of histone H3 and enhancement of target gene expression. By using a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, our data show that endogenous IKKalpha is recruited to the promoter site of several NF-kappaB-dependent genes in macrophages. Our data show that immunoreactive NIK is rapidly recruited to nuclear compartment in macrophages in response to treatment with endotoxin where it augments phosphorylation of histone H3 by inducing phosphorylation and kinase activity of IKKalpha. A small interfering RNA knockdown of NIK markedly reduces phosphorylation of histone H3 in endotoxin treated macrophages. These data, together, demonstrate a novel role for NIK as a histone H3 modifier, through an accessory pathway from NIK to IKKalpha, that could play an important role in the endotoxin response through modification of nucleosomal structure.