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Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a crucial transcription factor that regulates the expression of defensive antioxidants and detoxification enzymes in cells. In a previous study, we showed that expression of the Nrf2 gene is regulated by an epigenetic modification. Rauvolfia verticillata, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine widely used in China, possesses anticancer and antioxidant effects. In this study, we investigated how Nrf2 is epigenetically regulated by reserpine, the main active component in R. verticillata, in mouse skin epidermal JB6 P+ cells. Reserpine induced ARE (antioxidant response element)-luciferase activity in HepG2-C8 cells. Accordingly, in JB6 P+ cells, it upregulated the mRNA and protein levels of Nrf2 and its downstream target genes heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), while it only increased the protein level of UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1A1 (UGT1A1). Furthermore, reserpine decreased the TPA (12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate)-induced colony formation of JB6 cells in a dose-dependent manner. DNA sequencing and methylated DNA immunoprecipitation further demonstrated the demethylation effect of reserpine on the first 15 CpGs of the Nrf2 promoter in JB6 P+ cells. Reserpine also reduced the mRNA and protein expression of DNMT1 (DNA methyltransferase 1), DNMT3a (DNA methyltransferases 3a), and DNMT3b (DNA methyltransferases 3b). Moreover, reserpine induced Nrf2 expression via an epigenetic pathway in skin epidermal JB6 P+ cells, enhancing the protective antioxidant activity and decreasing TPA-induced cell transformation. These results suggest that reserpine exhibits a cancer preventive effect by reactivating Nrf2 and inducing the expression of target genes involved in cellular protection, potentially providing new insight into the chemoprevention of skin cancer using reserpine.
The online version of this article (doi:10.1208/s12248-016-9901-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.