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1.  Dysfunctional KEAP1–NRF2 Interaction in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e420.
Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (NRF2) is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that positively regulates the expression of genes encoding antioxidants, xenobiotic detoxification enzymes, and drug efflux pumps, and confers cytoprotection against oxidative stress and xenobiotics in normal cells. Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1) negatively regulates NRF2 activity by targeting it to proteasomal degradation. Increased expression of cellular antioxidants and xenobiotic detoxification enzymes has been implicated in resistance of tumor cells against chemotherapeutic drugs.
Methods and Findings
Here we report a systematic analysis of the KEAP1 genomic locus in lung cancer patients and cell lines that revealed deletion, insertion, and missense mutations in functionally important domains of KEAP1 and a very high percentage of loss of heterozygosity at 19p13.2, suggesting that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 in lung cancer is a common event. Sequencing of KEAP1 in 12 cell lines and 54 non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) samples revealed somatic mutations in KEAP1 in a total of six cell lines and ten tumors at a frequency of 50% and 19%, respectively. All the mutations were within highly conserved amino acid residues located in the Kelch or intervening region domain of the KEAP1 protein, suggesting that these mutations would likely abolish KEAP1 repressor activity. Evaluation of loss of heterozygosity at 19p13.2 revealed allelic losses in 61% of the NSCLC cell lines and 41% of the tumor samples. Decreased KEAP1 activity in cancer cells induced greater nuclear accumulation of NRF2, causing enhanced transcriptional induction of antioxidants, xenobiotic metabolism enzymes, and drug efflux pumps.
This is the first study to our knowledge to demonstrate that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 is a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC. Loss of KEAP1 function leading to constitutive activation of NRF2-mediated gene expression in cancer suggests that tumor cells manipulate the NRF2 pathway for their survival against chemotherapeutic agents.
Biallelic inactivation ofKEAP1, a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC, is associated with activation of the NRF2 pathway which leads to expression of genes that contribute to resistance against chemotherapeutic drugs.
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. More than 150,000 people in the US alone die every year from this disease, which can be split into two basic types—small cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Four out of five lung cancers are NSCLCs, but both types are mainly caused by smoking. Exposure to chemicals in smoke produces changes (or mutations) in the genetic material of the cells lining the lungs that cause the cells to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. In more than half the people who develop NSCLC, the cancer has spread out of the lungs before it is diagnosed, and therefore can't be removed surgically. Stage IV NSCLC, as this is known, is usually treated with chemotherapy—toxic chemicals that kill the fast-growing cancer cells. However, only 2% of people with stage IV NSCLC are still alive two years after their diagnosis, mainly because their cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy. They do this by making proteins that destroy cancer drugs (detoxification enzymes) or that pump them out of cells (efflux pumps) and by making antioxidants, chemicals that protect cells against the oxidative damage caused by many chemotherapy agents.
Why Was This Study Done?
To improve the outlook for patients with lung cancer, researchers need to discover exactly how cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Detoxification enzymes, efflux pumps, and antioxidants normally protect cells from environmental toxins and from oxidants produced by the chemical processes of life. Their production is regulated by nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (NRF2). The activity of this transcription factor (a protein that controls the expression of other proteins) is controlled by the protein Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1). KEAP1 holds NRF2 in the cytoplasm of the cell (the cytoplasm surrounds the cell's nucleus, where the genetic material is stored) when no oxidants are present and targets it for destruction. When oxidants are present, KEAP1 no longer interacts with NRF2, which moves into the nucleus and induces the expression of the proteins that protect the cell against oxidants and toxins. In this study, the researchers investigated whether changes in KEAP1 might underlie the drug resistance seen in lung cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers looked carefully at the gene encoding KEAP1 in tissue taken from lung tumors and in several lung cancer cell lines—tumor cells that have been grown in a laboratory. They found mutations in parts of KEAP1 known to be important for its function in half the cell lines and a fifth of the tumor samples. They also found that about half of the samples had lost part of one copy of the KEAP1 gene—cells usually have two copies of each gene. Five of the six tumors with KEAP1 mutations had also lost one copy of KEAP1—geneticists call this biallelic inactivation. This means that these tumors should have no functional KEAP1. When the researchers checked this by staining the tumors for NRF2, they found that the tumor cells had more NRF2 than normal cells and that it accumulated in the nucleus. In addition, the tumor cells made more detoxification enzymes, efflux proteins, and antioxidants than normal cells. Finally, the researchers showed that lung cancer cells with KEAP1 mutations were more resistant to chemotherapy drugs than normal lung cells were.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 is a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC and suggest that the loss of KEAP1 activity is one way that lung tumors can increase their NRF2 activity and develop resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. More lung cancer samples need to be examined to confirm this result, and similar studies need to be done in other cancers to see whether loss of KEAP1 activity is a common mechanism by which tumors become resistant to chemotherapy. If such studies confirm that high NRF2 activity (either through mutation or by some other route) is often associated with a poor tumor response to chemotherapy, then the development of NRF2 inhibitors might help to improve treatment outcomes in patients with chemotherapy-resistant tumors.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment
MedlinePlus entries on small cell lung cancer and NSCLC Cancer Research UK information on lung cancer
Wikipedia entries on lung cancer and chemotherapy (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1584412  PMID: 17020408
2.  KPNA6 (Importin α7)-Mediated Nuclear Import of Keap1 Represses the Nrf2-Dependent Antioxidant Response ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(9):1800-1811.
The transcription factor Nrf2 has emerged as a master regulator of cellular redox homeostasis. As an adaptive response to oxidative stress, Nrf2 activates the transcription of a battery of genes encoding antioxidants, detoxification enzymes, and xenobiotic transporters by binding the cis-antioxidant response element in the promoter regions of genes. The magnitude and duration of inducible Nrf2 signaling is delicately controlled at multiple levels by Keap1, which targets Nrf2 for redox-sensitive ubiquitin-mediated degradation in the cytoplasm and exports Nrf2 from the nucleus. However, it is not clear how Keap1 gains access to the nucleus. In this study, we show that Keap1 is constantly shuttling between the nucleus and the cytoplasm under physiological conditions. The nuclear import of Keap1 requires its C-terminal Kelch domain and is independent of Nrf1 and Nrf2. We have determined that importin α7, also known as karyopherin α6 (KPNA6), directly interacts with the Kelch domain of Keap1. Overexpression of KPNA6 facilitates Keap1 nuclear import and attenuates Nrf2 signaling, whereas knockdown of KPNA6 slows down Keap1 nuclear import and enhances the Nrf2-mediated adaptive response induced by oxidative stress. Furthermore, KPNA6 accelerates the clearance of Nrf2 protein from the nucleus during the postinduction phase, therefore promoting restoration of the Nrf2 protein to basal levels. These findings demonstrate that KPNA6-mediated Keap1 nuclear import plays an essential role in modulating the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response and maintaining cellular redox homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3133232  PMID: 21383067
3.  Keap1 Is a Redox-Regulated Substrate Adaptor Protein for a Cul3-Dependent Ubiquitin Ligase Complex 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(24):10941-10953.
The bZIP transcription factor Nrf2 controls a genetic program that protects cells from oxidative damage and maintains cellular redox homeostasis. Keap1, a BTB-Kelch protein, is the major upstream regulator of Nrf2 and controls both the subcellular localization and steady-state levels of Nrf2. In this report, we demonstrate that Keap1 functions as a substrate adaptor protein for a Cul3-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase complex. Keap1 assembles into a functional E3 ubiquitin ligase complex with Cul3 and Rbx1 that targets multiple lysine residues located in the N-terminal Neh2 domain of Nrf2 for ubiquitin conjugation both in vivo and in vitro. Keap1-dependent ubiquitination of Nrf2 is inhibited following exposure of cells to quinone-induced oxidative stress and sulforaphane, a cancer-preventive isothiocyanate. A mutant Keap1 protein containing a single cysteine-to-serine substitution at residue 151 within the BTB domain of Keap1 is markedly resistant to inhibition by either quinone-induced oxidative stress or sulforaphane. Inhibition of Keap1-dependent ubiquitination of Nrf2 correlates with decreased association of Keap1 with Cul3. Neither quinone-induced oxidative stress nor sulforaphane disrupts association between Keap1 and Nrf2. Our results suggest that the ability of Keap1 to assemble into a functional E3 ubiquitin ligase complex is the critical determinant that controls steady-state levels of Nrf2 in response to cancer-preventive compounds and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC533977  PMID: 15572695
4.  Acetylation of Nrf2 by p300/CBP Augments Promoter-Specific DNA Binding of Nrf2 during the Antioxidant Response▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(10):2658-2672.
To maintain intracellular redox homeostasis, genes encoding many antioxidants and detoxification enzymes are transcriptionally upregulated upon deleterious oxidative stress through the cis antioxidant responsive elements (AREs) in their promoter regions. Nrf2 is the critical transcription factor responsible for ARE-dependent transcription. We and others have previously demonstrated that Nrf2 is targeted for ubiquitin-mediated degradation by Keap1 in a redox-sensitive manner through modifications of distinct cysteine residues of Keap1. Here, we report that p300/CBP directly acetylates Nrf2 in response to arsenite-induced stress. We have identified multiple acetylated lysine residues within the Nrf2 Neh1 DNA-binding domain. Combined lysine-to-arginine mutations on the acetylation sites, with no effects on Nrf2 protein stability, compromised the DNA-binding activity of Nrf2 in a promoter-specific manner. These findings demonstrated that acetylation of Nrf2 by p300/CBP augments promoter-specific DNA binding of Nrf2 and established acetylation as a novel regulatory mechanism that functions in concert with Keap1-mediated ubiquitination in modulating the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response.
PMCID: PMC2682049  PMID: 19273602
5.  Genetic or Pharmacologic Amplification of Nrf2 Signaling Inhibits Acute Inflammatory Liver Injury in Mice 
Oxidative stress-mediated destruction of normal parenchymal cells during hepatic inflammatory responses contributes to the pathogenesis of immune-mediated hepatitis and is implicated in the progression of acute inflammatory liver injury to chronic inflammatory liver disease. The transcription factor NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) regulates the expression of a battery of antioxidative enzymes and Nrf2 signaling can be activated by small-molecule drugs that disrupt Keap1-mediated repression of Nrf2 signaling. Therefore, genetic and pharmacologic approaches were used to activate Nrf2 signaling to assess protection against inflammatory liver injury. Profound increases in ind of cell death were observed in both Nrf2 wild-type (Nrf2-WT) mice and Nrf2-disrupted (Nrf2-KO) mice 24-hr following intravenous injection of concanavalin A (12.5 mg/kg, ConA), a model for T cell-mediated acute inflammatory liver injury. However, hepatocyte-specific conditional Keap1 null (Alb-Cre:Keap1flox/−, cKeap1-KO) mice with constitutively enhanced expression of Nrf2-regulated antioxidative genes as well as Nrf2-WT mice but not Nrf2-KO mice pretreated with three daily doses of a triterpenoid that potently activates Nrf2 (30 µmole/kg, CDDO-Im) were highly resistant to ConA-mediated inflammatory liver injury. CDDO-Im pretreatment of both Nrf2-WT and Nrf2-KO mice resulted in equivalent suppression of serum pro-inflammatory soluble proteins suggesting that the hepatoprotection afforded by CDDO-Im pretreatment of Nrf2-WT mice but not Nrf2-KO mice was not due to suppression of systemic pro-inflammatory signaling, but instead was due to activation of Nrf2 signaling in the liver. Enhanced hepatic expression of Nrf2-regulated antioxidative genes inhibited inflammation-mediated oxidative stress, thereby preventing hepatocyte necrosis. Attenuation of hepatocyte death in cKeap1-KO mice and CDDO-Im pretreated Nrf2-WT mice resulted in decreased late-phase pro-inflammatory gene expression in the liver thereby diminishing the sustained influx of inflammatory cells initially stimulated by the ConA challenge. Taken together, these results clearly illustrate that targeted cytoprotection of hepatocytes through Nrf2 signaling during inflammation prevents the amplification of inflammatory responses in the liver.
PMCID: PMC2435415  PMID: 18417483
Liver inflammation; Nrf2; Keap1; antioxidative enzymes; cytoprotection; triterpenoid
6.  Distinct Cysteine Residues in Keap1 Are Required for Keap1-Dependent Ubiquitination of Nrf2 and for Stabilization of Nrf2 by Chemopreventive Agents and Oxidative Stress 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(22):8137-8151.
A common feature of diverse chemopreventive agents is the ability to activate expression of a genetic program that protects cells from reactive chemical species that, if left unchecked, would cause mutagenic DNA damage. The bZIP transcription factor Nrf2 has emerged as a key regulator of this cancer-preventive genetic program. Nrf2 is normally sequestered in the cytoplasm by a protein known as Keap1. Chemopreventive agents allow Nrf2 to escape from Keap1-mediated repression, although the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for activation of Nrf2 is not understood. In this report, we demonstrate that Keap1 does not passively sequester Nrf2 in the cytoplasm but actively targets Nrf2 for ubiquitination and degradation by the proteosome under basal culture conditions. We have identified two critical cysteine residues in Keap1, C273 and C288, that are required for Keap1-dependent ubiquitination of Nrf2. Both sulforaphane, a chemopreventive isothiocyanate, and oxidative stress enable Nrf2 to escape Keap1-dependent degradation, leading to stabilization of Nrf2, increased nuclear localization of Nrf2, and activation of Nrf2-dependent cancer-protective genes. We have identified a third cysteine residue in Keap1, C151, that is uniquely required for inhibition of Keap1-dependent degradation of Nrf2 by sulforaphane and oxidative stress. This cysteine residue is also required for a novel posttranslational modification to Keap1 that is induced by oxidative stress. We propose that Keap1 is a component of a novel E3 ubiquitin ligase complex that is specifically targeted for inhibition by both chemopreventive agents and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC262403  PMID: 14585973
7.  Transcription Factor Nrf2-Mediated Antioxidant Defense System in the Development of Diabetic Retinopathy 
Increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) is one of the major retinal metabolic abnormalities associated with the development of diabetic retinopathy. NF-E2–related factor 2 (Nrf2), a redox sensitive factor, provides cellular defenses against the cytotoxic ROS. In stress conditions, Nrf2 dissociates from its cytosolic inhibitor, Kelch like-ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1), and moves to the nucleus to regulate the transcription of antioxidant genes including the catalytic subunit of glutamylcysteine ligase (GCLC), a rate-limiting reduced glutathione (GSH) biosynthesis enzyme. Our aim is to understand the role of Nrf2-Keap1-GCLC in the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Effect of diabetes on Nrf2-Keap1-GCLC pathway, and subcellular localization of Nrf2 and its binding with Keap1 was investigated in the retina of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The binding of Nrf2 at GCLC was quantified by chromatin immunoprecipitation technique. The results were confirmed in isolated retinal endothelial cells, and also in the retina from human donors with diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes increased retinal Nrf2 and its binding with Keap1, but decreased DNA-binding activity of Nrf2 and also its binding at the promoter region of GCLC. Similar impairments in Nrf2-Keap1-GCLC were observed in the endothelial cells exposed to high glucose and in the retina from donors with diabetic retinopathy. In retinal endothelial cells, glucose-induced impairments in Nrf2-GCLC were prevented by Nrf2 inducer tBHQ and also by Keap1-siRNA.
Due to increased binding of Nrf2 with Keap1, its translocation to the nucleus is compromised contributing to the decreased GSH levels. Thus, regulation of Nrf2-Keap1 by pharmacological or molecular means could serve as a potential adjunct therapy to combat oxidative stress and inhibit the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes increases retinal Nrf2 levels, but decreases its DNA binding activity. Due to increased binding of Nrf2 with its inhibitor, the recruitment of Nrf2 at the promoter of GCLC, a rate-limiting enzyme in GSH biosynthesis, is decreased, resulting in subnormal antioxidant defense system.
PMCID: PMC3676188  PMID: 23633659
antioxidant defense; diabetic retinopathy; Nrf2
8.  Regulation of Nrf2 – An update 
Free radical biology & medicine  2013;66:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.02.008.
Nrf2:INrf2 (Keap1) are cellular sensors of oxidative and electrophilic stress. Nrf2 is a nuclear factor that controls the expression and coordinated induction of a battery of genes which encode detoxifying enzymes, drug transporters (MRPs), anti-apoptotic proteins and proteasomes. In the basal state, Nrf2 is constantly degraded in the cytoplasm by its inhibitor, INrf2. INrf2 functions as an adapter for Cul3/Rbx1 E3 ubiquitin ligase mediated degradation of Nrf2. Chemicals including antioxidants, tocopherols including α-tocopherol (vitamin E), phytochemicals and radiations antagonize the Nrf2:INrf2 interaction and leads to the stabilization and activation of Nrf2. The signaling events involve pre-induction, induction and post-induction responses that tightly control Nrf2 activation and repression back to the basal state. Oxidative/electrophilic signals activate unknown tyrosine kinase(s) in a pre-induction response which phosphorylates specific residues on Nrf2 negative-regulators, INrf2, Fyn and Bach1, leading to their nuclear export, ubiquitination and degradation. This prepares nuclei for unhindered import of Nrf2. Oxidative/electrophilic modification of INrf2cysteine151 followed by PKC phosphorylation of Nrf2serine40 in the induction response results in the escape or release of Nrf2 from INrf2. Nrf2 is thus stabilized and translocates to the nucleus resulting in a coordinated activation of gene expression. This is followed by a post-induction response that controls the ‘switching off’ of Nrf2-activated gene expression. GSK3β under the control of AKT and PI3K, phosphorylates Fyn leading to Fyn nuclear localization. Fyn phosphorylates Nrf2Y568 resulting in nuclear export and degradation of Nrf2. The activation and repression of Nrf2 provides protection against oxidative/electrophilic stress and associated diseases, including cancer. However, deregulation of INrf2 and Nrf2 due to mutations may lead to nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 that reduces apoptosis and promotes oncogenesis and drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC3773280  PMID: 23434765
Nrf2; INrf2(Keap1); Antioxidants; Vitamins; Phytochemicals; ROS; Signaling; Regulation; Chemoprotection; Oncogenesis
9.  SCF/β-TrCP Promotes Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3-Dependent Degradation of the Nrf2 Transcription Factor in a Keap1-Independent Manner▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(6):1121-1133.
Regulation of transcription factor Nrf2 (NF-E2-related factor 2) involves redox-sensitive proteasomal degradation via the E3 ubiquitin ligase Keap1/Cul3. However, Nrf2 is controlled by other mechanisms that have not yet been elucidated. We now show that glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) phosphorylates a group of Ser residues in the Neh6 domain of mouse Nrf2 that overlap with an SCF/β-TrCP destruction motif (DSGIS, residues 334 to 338) and promotes its degradation in a Keap1-independent manner. Nrf2 was stabilized by GSK-3 inhibitors in Keap1-null mouse embryo fibroblasts. Similarly, an Nrf2ΔETGE mutant, which cannot be degraded via Keap1, accumulated when GSK-3 activity was blocked. Phosphorylation of a Ser cluster in the Neh6 domain of Nrf2 stimulated its degradation because a mutant Nrf2ΔETGE 6S/6A protein, lacking these Ser residues, exhibited a longer half-life than Nrf2ΔETGE. Moreover, Nrf2ΔETGE 6S/6A was insensitive to β-TrCP regulation and exhibited lower levels of ubiquitination than Nrf2ΔETGE. GSK-3β enhanced ubiquitination of Nrf2ΔETGE but not that of Nrf2ΔETGE 6S/6A. The Nrf2ΔETGE protein but not Nrf2ΔETGE 6S/6A coimmunoprecipitated with β-TrCP, and this association was enhanced by GSK-3β. Our results show for the first time that Nrf2 is targeted by GSK-3 for SCF/β-TrCP-dependent degradation. We propose a “dual degradation” model to describe the regulation of Nrf2 under different pathophysiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC3067901  PMID: 21245377
10.  Keap1 Controls Postinduction Repression of the Nrf2-Mediated Antioxidant Response by Escorting Nuclear Export of Nrf2▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(18):6334-6349.
The transcription factor Nrf2 regulates cellular redox homeostasis. Under basal conditions, Keap1 recruits Nrf2 into the Cul3-containing E3 ubiquitin ligase complex for ubiquitin conjugation and subsequent proteasomal degradation. Oxidative stress triggers activation of Nrf2 through inhibition of E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, resulting in increased levels of Nrf2 and transcriptional activation of Nrf2-dependent genes. In this study, we identify Keap1 as a key postinduction repressor of Nrf2 and demonstrate that a nuclear export sequence (NES) in Keap1 is required for termination of Nrf2-antioxidant response element (ARE) signaling by escorting nuclear export of Nrf2. We provide evidence that ubiquitination of Nrf2 is carried out in the cytosol. Furthermore, we show that Keap1 nuclear translocation is independent of Nrf2 and the Nrf2-Keap1 complex does not bind the ARE. Collectively, our results suggest the following mechanism of postinduction repression: upon recovery of cellular redox homeostasis, Keap1 translocates into the nucleus to dissociate Nrf2 from the ARE. The Nrf2-Keap1 complex is then transported out of the nucleus by the NES in Keap1. Once in the cytoplasm, the Keap1-Nrf2 complex associates with the E3 ubiquitin ligase, resulting in degradation of Nrf2 and termination of the Nrf2 signaling pathway. Hence, postinduction repression of the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response is controlled by the nuclear export function of Keap1 in alliance with the cytoplasmic ubiquitination and degradation machinery.
PMCID: PMC2099624  PMID: 17636022
11.  MCRS2 represses the transactivation activities of Nrf1 
BMC Cell Biology  2009;10:9.
Nrf1 [p45 nuclear factor-erythroid 2 (p45 NF-E2)-related factor 1], a member of the CNC-bZIP (CNC basic region leucine zipper) family, is known to be a transcriptional activator by dimerization with distinct partners, such as Maf, FosB, c-Jun, JunD, etc. The transcriptional roles of CNC-bZIP family are demonstrated to be involved in globin gene expression as well as the antioxidant response. For example, CNC-bZIP factors can regulate the expression of detoxification proteins through AREs, such as expression of human gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetases (GCS), glutathione S-transferases (GST), UDP-glucuronosyl transferase (UDP-GT), NADP (H) quinone oxidoreductase (NQOs), etc. To further explore other factor(s) in cells related to the function of Nrf1, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screening assay to identify any Nrf1-interacting proteins. In this study, we isolated a cDNA encoding residues 126–475 of MCRS2 from the HeLa cell cDNA library. Some functions of MCRS1 and its splice variant-MSP58 and MCRS2 have been previously identified, such as transforming, nucleolar sequestration, ribosomal gene regulation, telomerase inhibition activities, etc. Here, we demonstrated MCRS2 can function as a repressor on the Nrf1-mediated transactivation using both in vitro and in vivo systems.
To find other proteins interacting with the CNC bZIP domain of Nrf1, the CNC-bZIP region of Nrf1 was used as a bait in a yeast two-hybrid screening assay. MCRS2, a splicing variant of p78/MCRS1, was isolated as the Nrf1-interacting partner from the screenings. The interaction between Nrf1 and MCRS2 was confirmed in vitro by GST pull-down assays and in vivo by co-immunoprecipitation. Further, the Nrf1-MCRS2 interaction domains were mapped to the residues 354–447 of Nrf1 as well as the residues 314–475 of MCRS2 respectively, by yeast two-hybrid and GST pull-down assays. By immunofluorescence, MCRS2-FLAG was shown to colocalize with HA-Nrf1 in the nucleus and didn't result in the redistribution of Nrf1. This suggested the existence of Nrf1-MCRS2 complex in vivo. To further confirm the biological function, a reporter driven by CNC-bZIP protein binding sites was also shown to be repressed by MCRS2 in a transient transfection assay. An artificial reporter gene activated by LexA-Nrf1 was also specifically repressed by MCRS2.
From the results, we showed MCRS2, a new Nrf1-interacting protein, has a repression effect on Nrf1-mediated transcriptional activation. This was the first ever identified repressor protein related to Nrf1 transactivation.
PMCID: PMC2644286  PMID: 19187526
12.  Nrf2 Signaling and Cell Survival 
Nrf2:INrf2 acts as a sensor for oxidative/electrophilic stress. INrf2 serves as an adaptor to link Nrf2 to the ubiquitin ligase Cul3-Rbx1 complex that ubiquitinate and degrade Nrf2. Under basal conditions, cytosolic INrf2/Cul3-Rbx1 is constantly degrading Nrf2. When a cell encounters stress Nrf2 dissociates from the INrf2 and translocates into the nucleus. Oxidative/electrophilic stress induced modification of INrf2Cysteine151 and/or protein kinase C (PKC)-mediated phosporylation of Nrf2Serine40 controls Nrf2 release from INrf2 followed by stabilization and nuclear translocation of Nrf2. Nrf2 binds to the antioxidant response element (ARE) and activates a myriad of genes that protect cells against oxidative/electrophilic stress and neoplasia. A delayed response of oxidative/electrophilic stress activates GSK-3β that phosphorylates Fyn at unknown threonine residue(s). Phosphorylated Fyn translocates to the nucleus and phosphorylates Nrf2Tyrosine568 that leads to nuclear export and degradation of Nrf2. Prothymosin-α mediated nuclear translocation of INrf2 also degrades nuclear Nrf2. The degradation of Nrf2 both in cytosol and nuclear compartments rapidly brings down its levels to normal resulting in suppression of Nrf2 downstream gene expression. An autoregulatory loop between Nrf2 and INrf2 controls their cellular abundance. Nrf2 regulates INrf2 by controlling its transcription, and INrf2 controls Nrf2 by degrading it. In conclusion, switching on and off of Nrf2 combined with promoting an autoregulatory loop between them regulates activation/deactivation of defensive genes leading to protection of cells against adverse effects of oxidative and electrophilic stress and promote cell survival.
PMCID: PMC2837794  PMID: 19538984
Nrf; INrf2 (keap1); Oxidative/electrophilic stress; Defensive gene expression; Cell signaling; Cell survival
13.  The Keap1-BTB Protein Is an Adaptor That Bridges Nrf2 to a Cul3-Based E3 Ligase: Oxidative Stress Sensing by a Cul3-Keap1 Ligase 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(19):8477-8486.
The Nrf2 transcription factor promotes survival following cellular insults that trigger oxidative damage. Nrf2 activity is opposed by the BTB/POZ domain protein Keap1. Keap1 is proposed to regulate Nrf2 activity strictly through its capacity to inhibit Nrf2 nuclear import. Recent work suggests that inhibition of Nrf2 may also depend upon ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis. To address the contribution of Keap1-dependent sequestration versus Nrf2 proteolysis, we identified the E3 ligase that regulates Nrf2 ubiquitination. We demonstrate that Keap1 is not solely a cytosolic anchor; rather, Keap1 is an adaptor that bridges Nrf2 to Cul3. We demonstrate that Cul3-Keap1 complexes regulate Nrf2 polyubiquitination both in vitro and in vivo. Inhibition of either Keap1 or Cul3 increases Nrf2 nuclear accumulation, leading to promiscuous activation of Nrf2-dependent gene expression. Our data demonstrate that Keap1 restrains Nrf2 activity via its capacity to target Nrf2 to a cytoplasmic Cul3-based E3 ligase and suggest a model in which Keap1 coordinately regulates both Nrf2 accumulation and access to target genes.
PMCID: PMC516753  PMID: 15367669
14.  Identification and Functional Studies of a New Nrf2 Partner IQGAP1: A Critical Role in the Stability and Transactivation of Nrf2 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(2):89-101.
Aims: Nuclear factor-erythroid-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a critical transcriptional factor that is used in regulating cellular defense against oxidative stress. This study is aimed at investigating new interacting protein partners of Nrf2 using One-strep tag pull-down coupled with LTQ Orbitrap LC/MS/MS, and at examining the impact on Nr2 signaling by the newly identified IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1). Results: Using the One-strep tag pull-down and LTQ Orbitrap LC/MS/MS, we identified IQGAP1 as a new Nrf2 interacting partner. Direct interactions between IQGAP1 and Nrf2 proteins were verified using in vitro glutathione S-transferase (GST) pull-down, transcription/translation assays, and in vivo utilizing Nrf2 overexpressing cells. Coexpression of Dsredmono-IQGAP1 and eGFP-Nrf2 increased the stability of eGFP-Nrf2 and enhanced the expression of Nrf2-target gene heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). To confirm the functional role of IQGAP1 on Nrf2, knock-downed IQGAP1 using siIQGAP1 attenuated the expression of endogenous Nrf2, HO-1 proteins, and Nrf2-target genes GSTpi, GCLC, and NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO-1). Furthermore, the stability of Nrf2 was dramatically decreased in IQGAP1-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells. Since IQGAP1 signaling could be mediated by calcium, treating the cells with calcium showed the translocation of IQGAP1/Nrf2 complex into the nucleus, suggesting that IQGAP1 may play a critical role in Nrf2 stability. Interestingly, consistent with calcium signaling for IQGAP1, treating the cells with calcium functionally enhanced Nrf2-mediated antioxidant responsive element-transcription activity and enhanced the expression of the endogenous Nrf2-target gene HO-1. Innovation: In the aggregate, our current study identifies and functionally characterizes a new Nrf2 partner protein IQGAP1, which may contribute to Nrf2's regulation of antioxidant enzymes such as HO-1. Conclusion: IQGAP1 may play a critical role in the stability and transactivation of Nrf2. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 89–101.
PMCID: PMC3689176  PMID: 22793650
15.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Induces Nrf2 during De Novo Infection of Endothelial Cells to Create a Microenvironment Conducive to Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004460.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and primary effusion B-cell lymphoma. KSHV induces reactive oxygen species (ROS) early during infection of human dermal microvascular endothelial (HMVEC-d) cells that are critical for virus entry. One of the downstream targets of ROS is nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor with important anti-oxidative functions. Here, we show that KS skin lesions have high Nrf2 activity compared to healthy skin tissue. Within 30 minutes of de novo KSHV infection of HMVEC-d cells, we observed Nrf2 activation through ROS-mediated dissociation from its inhibitor Keap1, Ser-40 phosphorylation, and subsequent nuclear translocation. KSHV binding and consequent signaling through Src, PI3-K and PKC-ζ were also important for Nrf2 stability, phosphorylation and transcriptional activity. Although Nrf2 was dispensable for ROS homeostasis, it was essential for the induction of COX-2, VEGF-A, VEGF-D, Bcl-2, NQO1, GCS, HO1, TKT, TALDO and G6PD gene expression in KSHV-infected HMVEC-d cells. The COX-2 product PGE2 induced Nrf2 activity through paracrine and autocrine signaling, creating a feed-forward loop between COX-2 and Nrf2. vFLIP, a product of KSHV latent gene ORF71, induced Nrf2 and its target genes NQO1 and HO1. Activated Nrf2 colocalized with the KSHV genome as well as with the latency protein LANA-1. Nrf2 knockdown enhanced ORF73 expression while reducing ORF50 and other lytic gene expression without affecting KSHV entry or genome nuclear delivery. Collectively, these studies for the first time demonstrate that during de novo infection, KSHV induces Nrf2 through intricate mechanisms involving multiple signal molecules, which is important for its ability to manipulate host and viral genes, creating a microenvironment conducive to KSHV infection. Thus, Nrf2 is a potential attractive target to intervene in KSHV infection and the associated maladies.
Author Summary
KSHV infection of endothelial cells in vivo causes Kaposi's sarcoma and understanding the steps involved in de novo KSHV infection of these cells and the consequences is important to develop therapies to counter KSHV pathogenesis. Infection of endothelial cells in vitro is preceded by the induction of a network of host signaling agents that are necessary for virus entry, gene expression and establishment of latency. Our previous studies have implicated reactive oxygen species (ROS) as part of this network. In the current study, we show that ROS activate Nrf2, a master transcriptional regulator of genes involved in ROS homeostasis, apoptosis, glucose metabolism and angiogenesis. Besides ROS, KSHV utilizes additional aspects of host signaling to induce Nrf2 activity. We also observed that infection of endothelial cells deficient in Nrf2 resulted in downregulation of multiple genes important in KSHV pathogenesis, such as COX-2 and VEGF, and affected proper expression of two hallmark KSHV genes, lytic ORF50 and latent ORF73. Taken together, this study is the first to demonstrate the importance of Nrf2 during de novo KSHV infection of endothelial cells, and establishes Nrf2 as an attractive therapeutic target to control KSHV infection, establishment of latency and the associated cancers.
PMCID: PMC4207826  PMID: 25340789
16.  CAND1-Mediated Substrate Adaptor Recycling Is Required for Efficient Repression of Nrf2 by Keap1 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(4):1235-1244.
The bZIP transcription factor Nrf2 controls a genetic program that protects cells from oxidative damage and maintains cellular redox homeostasis. Keap1, a BTB-Kelch protein, is the major upstream regulator of Nrf2. Keap1 functions as a substrate adaptor protein for a Cul3-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase complex to repress steady-state levels of Nrf2 and Nrf2-dependent transcription. Cullin-dependent ubiquitin ligase complexes have been proposed to undergo dynamic cycles of assembly and disassembly that enable substrate adaptor exchange or recycling. In this report, we have characterized the importance of substrate adaptor recycling for regulation of Keap1-mediated repression of Nrf2. Association of Keap1 with Cul3 was decreased by ectopic expression of CAND1 and was increased by small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of CAND1. However, both ectopic overexpression and siRNA-mediated knockdown of CAND1 decreased the ability of Keap1 to target Nrf2 for ubiquitin-dependent degradation, resulting in stabilization of Nrf2 and activation of Nrf2-dependent gene expression. Neddylation of Cul3 on Lys 712 is required for Keap1-dependent ubiquitination of Nrf2 in vivo. However, the K712R mutant Cul3 molecule, which is not neddylated, can still assemble with Keap1 into a functional ubiquitin ligase complex in vitro. These results provide support for a model in which substrate adaptor recycling is required for efficient substrate ubiquitination by cullin-dependent E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes.
PMCID: PMC1367193  PMID: 16449638
17.  Essential role of PH domain and leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 2 in Nrf2 suppression via modulation of Akt/GSK3β/Fyn kinase axis during oxidative hepatocellular toxicity 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(3):e1153-.
Instances of sustained oxidative activity have been shown to involve dysregulation of Nrf2-mediated transcriptional induction; however, mechanisms warranting Nrf2-repression remain unclear. In this study, using primary rat hepatocytes, we have attempted to identify factors that may negatively influence Nrf2 survival pathway. Though studies indicate a conspicuous association between Akt and Nrf2, a confirmatory link between the two is unaddressed. On inhibiting PI3K/Akt pathway, we observed compromised activities of antioxidant and detoxification enzymes culminating in oxidative cytotoxicity. This was accompanied by reduced nuclear retention of Nrf2 and its ARE binding affinity, increased Nrf2 ubiquitination and concurrent decline in its downstream targets. Moreover, Akt inhibition enhanced nuclear translocation as well as phosphorylation of Fyn kinase, an enzyme linked to Nrf2 degradation, by relieving GSK3β from phosphorylation-mediated repression. The involvement of Akt and Fyn kinase in influencing Nrf2 signaling was further confirmed in oxidatively stressed hepatocytes by using tert-butyl hydroperoxide (tBHP). tBHP-induced decrease in Nrf2 levels was associated with enhanced Fyn kinase phosphorylation, Fyn kinase nuclear translocation and decreased levels of phosphorylated GSK3β(Ser9) in a time-dependent manner. Interestingly, tBHP induced site-specific deactivation of Akt as only Akt(Ser473) phosphorylation was observed to be affected. Further, protein expression as well as nuclear localization of PHLPP2, a phosphatase specific for Akt(Ser473), was found to be significantly enhanced in tBHP-stressed hepatocytes. Silencing of PHLPP2 not only resulted in considerable restoration of Nrf2 signaling, enhanced Nrf2-ARE binding and reduced Nrf2 ubiquitination but also significantly suppressed tBHP-induced ROS generation and alterations in mitochondrial permeability. We infer that cellular PHLPP2 levels may aggravate oxidative toxicity by suppressing Nrf2/ARE transcriptional regulation via Akt(Se473)/GSK3β/Fyn kinase axis. The study indicates that PHLPP2 could serve as a new target for developing strategies to manage pathological conditions exacerbated due to oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3973230  PMID: 24675471
PHLPP2; Fyn kinase; Nrf2 signaling; Akt(Ser473); oxidative stress; hepatocellular response
18.  Dihydro-CDDO-Trifluoroethyl Amide (dh404), a Novel Nrf2 Activator, Suppresses Oxidative Stress in Cardiomyocytes 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8391.
Targeting Nrf2 signaling appears to be an attractive approach for the treatment of maladaptive cardiac remodeling and dysfunction; however, pharmacological modulation of the Nrf2 pathway in the cardiovascular system remains to be established. Herein, we report that a novel synthetic triterpenoid derivative, dihydro-CDDO-trifluoroethyl amide (dh404), activates Nrf2 and suppresses oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes. Dh404 interrupted the Keap1-Cul3-Rbx1 E3 ligase complex-mediated Nrf2 ubiquitination and subsequent degradation saturating the binding capacity of Keap1 to Nrf2, thereby rendering more Nrf2 to be translocated into the nuclei to activate Nrf2-driven gene transcription. A mutant Keap1 protein containing a single cysteine-to-serine substitution at residue 151 within the BTB domain of Keap1 was resistant to dh404-induced stabilization of Nrf2 protein. In addition, dh404 did not dissociate the interaction of Nrf2 with the Keap1-Cul3-Rbx1 E3 ligase complex. Thus, it is likely that dh404 inhibits the ability of Keap1-Cul3-Rbx1 E3 ligase complex to target Nrf2 for ubiquitination and degradation via modifying Cys-151 of Keap1 to change the conformation of the complex. Moreover, dh404 was able to stabilize Nrf2 protein, to enhance Nrf2 nuclear translocation, to activate Nrf2-driven transcription, and to suppress angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes. Knockdown of Nrf2 almost blocked the anti-oxidative effect of dh404. Dh404 activated Nrf2 signaling in the heart. Taken together, dh404 appears to be a novel Nrf2 activator with a therapeutic potential for cardiac diseases via suppressing oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC2791441  PMID: 20027226
19.  Identification and quantification of the basal and inducible Nrf2-dependent proteomes in mouse liver: Biochemical, pharmacological and toxicological implications 
Journal of Proteomics  2014;108(100):171-187.
The transcription factor Nrf2 is a master regulator of cellular defence: Nrf2 null mice (Nrf2(−/−)) are highly susceptible to chemically induced toxicities. We report a comparative iTRAQ-based study in Nrf2(−/−) mice treated with a potent inducer, methyl-2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)dien-28-oate (CDDO-me; bardoxolone -methyl), to define both the Nrf2-dependent basal and inducible hepatoproteomes. One thousand five hundred twenty-one proteins were fully quantified (FDR < 1%). One hundred sixty-one were significantly different (P < 0.05) between WT and Nrf2(−/−) mice, confirming extensive constitutive regulation by Nrf2. Treatment with CDDO-me (3 mg/kg; i.p.) resulted in significantly altered expression of 43 proteins at 24 h in WT animals. Six proteins were regulated at both basal and inducible levels exhibiting the largest dynamic range of Nrf2 regulation: cytochrome P4502A5 (CYP2A5; 17.2-fold), glutathione-S-transferase-Mu 3 (GSTM3; 6.4-fold), glutathione-S-transferase Mu 1 (GSTM1; 5.9-fold), ectonucleoside-triphosphate diphosphohydrolase (ENTPD5; 4.6-fold), UDP-glucose-6-dehydrogenase (UDPGDH; 4.1-fold) and epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1; 3.0-fold). These proteins, or their products, thus provide a potential source of biomarkers for Nrf2 activity. ENTPD5 is of interest due to its emerging role in AKT signalling and, to our knowledge, this protein has not been previously shown to be Nrf2-dependent. Only two proteins altered by CDDO-me in WT animals were similarly affected in Nrf2(−/−) mice, demonstrating the high degree of selectivity of CDDO-me for the Nrf2:Keap1 signalling pathway.
Biological significance
The Nrf2:Keap1 signalling pathway is attracting considerable interest as a therapeutic target for different disease conditions. For example, CDDO-me (bardoxolone methyl) was investigated in clinical trials for the treatment of acute kidney disease, and dimethyl fumarate, recently approved for reducing relapse rate in multiple sclerosis, is a potent Nrf2 inducer. Such compounds have been suggested to act through multiple mechanisms; therefore, it is important to define the selectivity of Nrf2 inducers to assess the potential for off-target effects that may lead to adverse drug reactions, and to provide biomarkers with which to assess therapeutic efficacy. Whilst there is considerable information on the global action of such inducers at the mRNA level, this is the first study to catalogue the hepatic protein expression profile following acute exposure to CDDO-me in mice. At a dose shown to evoke maximal Nrf2 induction in the liver, CDDO-me appeared highly selective for known Nrf2-regulated proteins. Using the transgenic Nrf2(−/−) mouse model, it could be shown that 97% of proteins induced in wild type mice were associated with a functioning Nrf2 signalling pathway. This analysis allowed us to identify a panel of proteins that were regulated both basally and following Nrf2 induction. Identification of these proteins, which display a large magnitude of variation in their expression, provides a rich source of potential biomarkers for Nrf2 activity for use in experimental animals, and which may be translatable to man to define individual susceptibility to chemical stress, including that associated with drugs, and also to monitor the pharmacological response to Nrf2 inducers.
Graphical abstract
•Liver proteomes from WT, Nrf2-null and Nrf2-induced mice were compared by iTRAQ•Of 1521 proteins quantified, 161 were regulated basally and 43 following induction•Six proteins were both basally and inducibly regulated, with high dynamic ranges•In order of fold change, these proteins were CYP2A5, GSTM3, GSTM1, ENTPD5, G6PD, EPHX1•These proteins may yield translatable biomarkers for clinical development
PMCID: PMC4115266  PMID: 24859727
Nrf2; iTRAQ; ENTPD5; CYP2A5; Hepatoproteome; CDDO
20.  The Keap1/Nrf2 Protein Axis Plays a Role in Osteoclast Differentiation by Regulating Intracellular Reactive Oxygen Species Signaling* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(32):23009-23020.
Background: Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a master regulator of cytoprotective enzymes.
Results: Nrf2 overexpression-mediated cytoprotective enzymes' augmentation blocked RANKL signaling via intracellular ROS attenuation and thereby blocked bone destruction.
Conclusion: Nrf2-dependent cytoprotective enzyme expressions play a role in the regulation of osteoclastogenesis by controlling intracellular ROS.
Significance: The Keap1/Nrf2 axis could be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of bone destructive disease.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) act as intracellular signaling molecules in the regulation of receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL)-dependent osteoclast differentiation, but they also have cytotoxic effects that include peroxidation of lipids and oxidative damage to proteins and DNA. Cellular protective mechanisms against oxidative stress include transcriptional control of cytoprotective enzymes by the transcription factor, nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). This study investigated the relationship between Nrf2 and osteoclastogenesis. Stimulation of osteoclast precursors (mouse primary peritoneal macrophages and RAW 264.7 cells) with RANKL resulted in the up-regulation of kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1), a negative regulator of Nrf2. It also decreased the Nrf2/Keap1 ratio, and it down-regulated cytoprotective enzymes (heme oxygenase-1, γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase). Nrf2 overexpression up-regulated the expression of cytoprotective enzymes, decreased ROS levels, decreased the number of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase-positive multinucleated cells, reduced marker genes for osteoclast differentiation, and attenuated bone destruction in both in vitro and in vivo models. Overexpression of Keap1 or RNAi knockdown of Nrf2 exerted the opposite actions. In addition, in vivo local Nrf2 overexpression attenuated lipopolysaccharide-mediated RANKL-dependent cranial bone destruction in vivo. This is the first study to show that the Keap1/Nrf2 axis regulates RANKL-dependent osteoclastogenesis through modulation of intracellular ROS signaling via expression of cytoprotective enzymes. This raises the exciting possibility that the Keap1-Nrf2 axis may be a therapeutic target for the treatment of bone destructive disease.
PMCID: PMC3743476  PMID: 23801334
Arthritis; Bone; Nrf2; Osteoclast; Periodontal Disease; Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)
21.  Cross-Regulations among NRFs and KEAP1 and Effects of their Silencing on Arsenic-Induced Antioxidant Response and Cytotoxicity in Human Keratinocytes 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(4):583-589.
Background: Nuclear factor E2-related factors (NRFs), including NRF2 and NRF1, play critical roles in mediating the cellular adaptive response to oxidative stress. Human exposure to inorganic arsenic, a potent oxidative stressor, causes various dermal disorders, including hyperkeratosis and skin cancer.
Objective: We investigated the cross-regulations among NRF2, NRF1, and KEAP1, a cullin-3–adapter protein that allows NRF2 to be ubiquinated and degraded by the proteasome complex, in arsenic-induced antioxidant responses.
Results: In human keratinocyte HaCaT cells, selective knockdown (KD) of NRF2 by lentiviral short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) significantly reduced the expression of many antioxidant enzymes and sensitized the cells to acute cytotoxicity of inorganic arsenite (iAs3+). In contrast, silencing KEAP1 led to a dramatic resistance to iAs3+-induced apoptosis. Pretreatment of HaCaT cells with NRF2 activators, such as tert-butylhydroquinone, protects the cells against acute iAs3+ toxicity in an NRF2-dependent fashion. Consistent with the negative regulatory role of KEAP1 in NRF2 activation, KEAP1-KD cells exhibited enhanced transcriptional activity of NRF2 under nonstressed conditions. However, deficiency in KEAP1 did not facilitate induction of NRF2-target genes by iAs3+. In addition, NRF2 silencing reduced the expression of KEAP1 at transcription and protein levels but increased the protein expression of NRF1 under the iAs3+-exposed condition. In contrast, silencing KEAP1 augmented protein accumulation of NRF2 under basal and iAs3+-exposed conditions, whereas the iAs3+-induced protein accumulation of NRF1 was attenuated in KEAP1-KD cells.
Conclusions: Our studies suggest that NRF2, KEAP1, and NRF1 are coordinately involved in the regulation of the cellular adaptive response to iAs3+-induced oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3339469  PMID: 22476201
antioxidant response; arsenic; cytotoxicity; KEAP1; keratinocyte; NRF1; NRF2
22.  Fasting Induces Nuclear Factor E2-Related Factor 2 and ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters via Protein Kinase A and Sirtuin-1 in Mouse and Human 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(1):15-30.
Aims: The purpose of this study was to determine whether 3′-5′-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-protein kinase A (PKA) and Sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) dependent mechanisms modulate ATP-binding Cassette (ABC) transport protein expression. ABC transport proteins (ABCC2–4) are essential for chemical elimination from hepatocytes and biliary excretion. Nuclear factor-E2 related-factor 2 (NRF2) is a transcription factor that mediates ABCC induction in response to chemical inducers and liver injury. However, a role for NRF2 in the regulation of transporter expression in nonchemical models of liver perturbation is largely undescribed. Results: Here we show that fasting increased NRF2 target gene expression through NRF2- and SIRT1–dependent mechanisms. In intact mouse liver, fasting induces NRF2 target gene expression by at least 1.5 to 5-fold. In mouse and human hepatocytes, treatment with 8-Bromoadenosine-cAMP, a cAMP analogue, increased NRF2 target gene expression and antioxidant response element activity, which was decreased by the PKA inhibitor, H-89. Moreover, fasting induced NRF2 target gene expression was decreased in liver and hepatocytes of SIRT1 liver-specific null mice and NRF2-null mice. Lastly, NRF2 and SIRT1 were recruited to MAREs and Antioxidant Response Elements (AREs) in the human ABCC2 promoter. Innovation: Oxidative stress mediated NRF2 activation is well described, yet the influence of basic metabolic processes on NRF2 activation is just emerging. Conclusion: The current data point toward a novel role of nutrient status in regulation of NRF2 activity and the antioxidant response, and indicates that cAMP/PKA and SIRT1 are upstream regulators for fasting-induced activation of the NRF2-ARE pathway. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 15–30.
PMCID: PMC3880903  PMID: 23725046
23.  Decline in NRF2-regulated Antioxidants in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Lungs Due to Loss of Its Positive Regulator, DJ-1 
Rationale: Oxidative stress is a key contributor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pathogenesis caused by cigarette smoking. NRF2, a redox-sensitive transcription factor, dissociates from its inhibitor, KEAP1, to induce antioxidant expression that inhibits oxidative stress.
Objectives: To determine the link between severity of COPD, oxidative stress, and NRF2-dependent antioxidant levels in the peripheral lung tissue of patients with COPD.
Methods: We assessed the expression of NRF2, NRF2-dependent antioxidants, regulators of NRF2 activity, and oxidative damage in non-COPD (smokers and former smokers) and smoker COPD lungs (mild and advanced). Cigarette smoke–exposed human lung epithelial cells (Beas2B) and mice were used to understand the mechanisms.
Measurements and Main Results: When compared with non-COPD lungs, the COPD patient lungs showed (1) marked decline in NRF2-dependent antioxidants and glutathione levels, (2) increased oxidative stress markers, (3) significant decrease in NRF2 protein with no change in NRF2 mRNA levels, and (4) similar KEAP1 but significantly decreased DJ-1 levels (a protein that stabilizes NRF2 protein by impairing KEAP1-dependent proteasomal degradation of NRF2). Exposure of Bea2B cells to cigarette smoke caused oxidative modification and enhanced proteasomal degradation of DJ-1 protein. Disruption of DJ-1 in mouse lungs, mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and Beas2B cells lowered NRF2 protein stability and impaired antioxidant induction in response to cigarette smoke. Interestingly, targeting KEAP1 by siRNA or the small-molecule activator sulforaphane restored induction of NRF2-dependent antioxidants in DJ-1–disrupted cells in response to cigarette smoke.
Conclusions: NRF2-dependent antioxidants and DJ-1 expression was negatively associated with severity of COPD. Therapy directed toward enhancing NRF2-regulated antioxidants may be a novel strategy for attenuating the effects of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of COPD.
PMCID: PMC2542433  PMID: 18556627
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; NRF2; DJ-1; oxidative stress; antioxidants
24.  Basic Principles and Emerging Concepts in the Redox Control of Transcription Factors 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2011;15(8):2335-2381.
Convincing concepts of redox control of gene transcription have been worked out for prokaryotes and lower eukaryotes, whereas the knowledge on complex mammalian systems still resembles a patchwork of poorly connected findings. The article, therefore, reviews principles of redox regulation with special emphasis on chemical feasibility, kinetic requirements, specificity, and physiological context, taking well investigated mammalian transcription factor systems, nuclear transcription factor of bone marrow-derived lymphocytes (NF-κB), and kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1)/Nrf2, as paradigms. Major conclusions are that (i) direct signaling by free radicals is restricted to O2•− and •NO and can be excluded for fast reacting radicals such as •OH, •OR, or Cl•; (ii) oxidant signals are H2O2, enzymatically generated lipid hydroperoxides, and peroxynitrite; (iii) free radical damage is sensed via generation of Michael acceptors; (iv) protein thiol oxidation/alkylation is the prominent mechanism to modulate function; (v) redox sensors must be thiol peroxidases by themselves or proteins with similarly reactive cysteine or selenocysteine (Sec) residues to kinetically compete with glutathione peroxidase (GPx)- and peroxiredoxin (Prx)-type peroxidases or glutathione-S-transferases, respectively, a postulate that still has to be verified for putative mammalian sensors. S-transferases and Prxs are considered for system complementation. The impact of NF-κB and Nrf2 on hormesis, management of inflammatory diseases, and cancer prevention is critically discussed. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 15, 2335–2381.
I. Introduction
II. Mechanistic Principles in Redox Regulation
A. Indispensable components of regulatory circuits
B. Radicals or hydroperoxides as oxidant signals in redox signaling?
C. Signals of free radical damage
D. Sensing and transducing proteins
1. Thiol peroxidases as sensors
2. Transcription factors as sensors for hydroperoxides
3. PPs and PKs as potential sensors
4. Redox sensing by cytosolic inhibitory complexes of transcription factors
5. Sensing by selenocysteine-containing proteins?
6. Oxygen sensing
E. Adjusting sensitivity by competing systems
F. The problems beyond signals and sensors
III. Orchestrating the Adaptive Response by the Keap1/Nrf2 System
A. Discovery
B. The physiological context of Nrf2-dependent gene activation
C. Mechanistic aspects of Nrf2 signaling
1. Basics of Nrf2 activation
2. Keap1 as primary redox sensor of Nrf2 signaling
3. Downstream signaling events
4. Nrf2-mediated transduction events
5. Shut-off mechanisms
6. Modulation of Nrf2 function by cross-talk with phosphorylation cascades
D. Synopsis of the Nrf2 system
IV. NF-κB, a Key Regulator of the Immune Response
A. Discovery and definitions
B. The biological context of NF-κB
C. Basics of NF-κB activation
D. Redox regulation of NF-κB activation
1. The source of the oxidants
2. Modulation of NF-κB activation via redox-sensitive phosphorylation
3. Regulation of NF-κB by redoxin systems
E. Termination of NF-κB signaling
F. Synopsis of the NF-κB system
V. Loose Ends and Perspectives
PMCID: PMC3166203  PMID: 21194351
25.  Roles Nrf2 Plays in Myeloid Cells and Related Disorders 
The Keap1-Nrf2 system protects animals from oxidative and electrophilic stresses. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that induces the expression of genes essential for detoxifying reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytotoxic electrophiles. Keap1 is a stress sensor protein that binds to and ubiquitinates Nrf2 under unstressed conditions, leading to the rapid proteasomal degradation of Nrf2. Upon exposure to stress, Keap1 is modified and inactivated, which allows Nrf2 to accumulate and activate the transcription of a battery of cytoprotective genes. Antioxidative and detoxification activities are important for many types of cells to avoid DNA damage and cell death. Accumulating lines of recent evidence suggest that Nrf2 is also required for the primary functions of myeloid cells, which include phagocytosis, inflammation regulation, and ROS generation for bactericidal activities. In fact, results from several mouse models have shown that Nrf2 expression in myeloid cells is required for the proper regulation of inflammation, antitumor immunity, and atherosclerosis. Moreover, several molecules generated upon inflammation activate Nrf2. Although ROS detoxification mediated by Nrf2 is assumed to be required for anti-inflammation, the entire picture of the Nrf2-mediated regulation of myeloid cell primary functions has yet to be elucidated. In this review, we describe the Nrf2 inducers characteristic of myeloid cells and the contributions of Nrf2 to diseases.
PMCID: PMC3684031  PMID: 23819012

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