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1.  Arsenic-Mediated Activation of the Nrf2-Keap1 Antioxidant Pathway 
Arsenic is present in the environment and has become a worldwide health concern due to its toxicity and carcinogenicity. However, the specific mechanism(s) by which arsenic elicits its toxic effects has yet to be fully elucidated. The transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) has been recognized as the master regulator of a cellular defense mechanism against toxic insults. This review highlights studies demonstrating that arsenic activates the Nrf2-Keap1 antioxidant pathway by a distinct mechanism from that of natural compounds such as sulforaphane (SF) found in broccoli sprouts or tert-butylhyrdoquinone (tBHQ), a natural antioxidant commonly used as a food preservative. Evidence also suggests that arsenic prolongs Nrf2 activation and may mimic constitutive activation of Nrf2, which has been found in several human cancers due to disruption of the Nrf2-Keap1 axis. The current literature strongly suggests that activation of Nrf2 by arsenic potentially contributes to, rather than protects against, arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity. The mechanism(s) by which known Nrf2 activators, such as the natural chemopreventive compounds SF and lipoic acid, protect against the deleterious effects caused by arsenic will also be discussed. These findings will provide insight to further understand how arsenic promotes a prolonged Nrf2 response, which will lead to the identification of novel molecular markers and development of rational therapies for the prevention or intervention of arsenic-induced diseases. The National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) award has provided the opportunity to review the progress both in the fields of arsenic toxicology and Nrf2 biology. Much of the funding has led to (1) the novel discovery that arsenic activates the Nrf2 pathway by a mechanism different to that of other Nrf2 activators, such as sulforaphane and tert-butylhydroquinone, (2) activation of Nrf2 by chemopreventive compounds protects against arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity both in vitro and in vivo, (3) constitutive activation of Nrf2 by disrupting Keap1-mediated negative regulation contributes to cancer and chemoresistance, (4) p62-mediated sequestration of Keap1 activates the Nrf2 pathway, and (5) arsenic-mediated Nrf2 activation may be through a p62-dependent mechanism. All of these findings have been published and are discussed in this review. This award has laid the foundation for my laboratory to further investigate the molecular mechanism(s) that regulate the Nrf2 pathway and how it may play an integral role in arsenic toxicity. Moreover, understanding the biology behind arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity will help in the discovery of potential strategies to prevent or control arsenic-mediated adverse effects.
PMCID: PMC3725327  PMID: 23188707
Nrf2; Arsenic; Keap1; Oxidative stress; p62; Autophagy; Chemoprevention
2.  Nrf2 protects human bladder urothelial cells from arsenite and monomethylarsonous acid toxicity 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2007;225(2):206-213.
Arsenic is widely spread in our living environment and imposes a big challenge on human health worldwide. Arsenic damages biological systems through multiple mechanisms including the generation of reactive oxygen species. The transcription factor Nrf2 regulates the cellular antioxidant response that protects cells from various insults. In this study, the protective role of Nrf2 in arsenic toxicity was investigated in a human bladder urothelial cell line, UROtsa. Using an UROtsa cell line stably infected with Nrf2-siRNA, we clearly demonstrate that compromised Nrf2 expression sensitized the cells to As(III)- and MMA(III)-induced toxicity. On the other hand, the activation of the Nrf2 pathway by tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) and sulforaphane (SF), the known Nrf2-inducers, rendered UROtsa cells more resistant to As(III)- and MMA(III). Furthermore, the wild type mouse embryo fibroblast (WT-MEF) cells were protected from As(III)- and MMA(III)-induced toxicity following Nrf2 activation by tBHQ or SF whereas neither tBHQ nor SF conferred protection in the Nrf2−/−-MEF cells, demonstrating that tBHQ- or SF-mediated protection against As(III)- and MMA(III)-induced toxicity depends on Nrf2 activation. These results, obtained by both loss of function and gain of function analyses, clearly demonstrate the protective role of Nrf2 in arsenic-induced toxicity. The current work lays the groundwork for using Nrf2 activators for therapeutic and dietary interventions against adverse effects of arsenic.
PMCID: PMC2610476  PMID: 17765279
Nrf2; Keap1; arsenic; arsenite; MMA(III); UROtsa
3.  Nrf2 protects against As(III)-induced damage in mouse liver and bladder 
Arsenic compounds are classified as toxicants and human carcinogens. Environmental exposure to arsenic imposes a big health issue worldwide. Arsenic elicits its toxic efforts through many mechanisms, including generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Nrf2 is the primary transcription factor that controls expression of a main cellular antioxidant response, which is required for neutralizing ROS and thus defending cells from exogenous insults. Previously, we demonstrated a protective role of Nrf2 against arsenic-induced toxicity using a cell culture model. In this report, we present evidence that Nrf2 protects against liver and bladder injury in response to six-weeks of arsenic exposure in a mouse model. Nrf2−/− mice displayed more severe pathological changes in the liver and bladder, compared to Nrf2+/+ mice. Furthermore, Nrf2−/− mice were more sensitive to arsenic-induced DNA hypomethylation, oxidative DNA damage, and apoptotic cell death. These results indicate a protective role of Nrf2 against arsenic toxicity in vivo. Hence, this work demonstrates the feasibility of using dietary compounds that target activation of the Nrf2 signaling pathway to alleviate arsenic-induced damage.
PMCID: PMC2739886  PMID: 19538980
4.  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
5.  Activation of Nrf2 by arsenite and monomethylarsonous acid is independent of Keap1-C151: enhanced Keap1-Cul3 interaction 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2008;230(3):383-389.
Drinking water contaminated with arsenic, a human carcinogen, is a worldwide health issue. An understanding of cellular signaling events in response to arsenic exposure and rational designing of strategies to reduce arsenic damages by modulating signaling events are important to fight against arsenic-induced diseases. Previously, we reported that activation of the Nrf2-mediated cellular defense pathway confers protection against toxic effects induced by sodium arsenite [As(III)] or monomethylarsonous acid [MMA(III)]. Paradoxically, arsenic has been reported to induce the Nrf2-dependent signaling pathway. Here, we report the unique mechanism of Nrf2 induction by arsenic. Similar to tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) or sulforaphane (SF), arsenic induced the Nrf2-dependent response through enhancing Nrf2 protein levels by inhibiting Nrf2 ubiquitination and degradation. However, the detailed action of arsenic in Nrf2 induction is different from that of tBHQ or SF. Arsenic markedly enhanced the interaction between Keap1 and Cul3, subunits of the E3 ubiquitin ligase for Nrf2, which led to impaired dynamic assembly/disassembly of the E3 ubiquitin ligase and thus decreased its ligase activity. Furthermore, induction of Nrf2 by arsenic is independent of the previously identified C151 residue in Keap1 that is required for Nrf2 activation by tBHQ or SF. Distinct mechanisms of Nrf2 activation by seemingly harmful and beneficial reagents provide a molecular basis to design Nrf2-activating agents for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC2610481  PMID: 18417180
6.  Arsenic Inhibits Autophagic Flux, Activating the Nrf2-Keap1 Pathway in a p62-Dependent Manner 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(12):2436-2446.
The Nrf2-Keap1 signaling pathway is a protective mechanism promoting cell survival. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway by natural compounds has been proven to be an effective strategy for chemoprevention. Interestingly, a cancer-promoting function of Nrf2 has recently been observed in many types of tumors due to deregulation of the Nrf2-Keap1 axis, which leads to constitutive activation of Nrf2. Here, we report a novel mechanism of Nrf2 activation by arsenic that is distinct from that of chemopreventive compounds. Arsenic deregulates the autophagic pathway through blockage of autophagic flux, resulting in accumulation of autophagosomes and sequestration of p62, Keap1, and LC3. Thus, arsenic activates Nrf2 through a noncanonical mechanism (p62 dependent), leading to a chronic, sustained activation of Nrf2. In contrast, activation of Nrf2 by sulforaphane (SF) and tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) depends upon Keap1-C151 and not p62 (the canonical mechanism). More importantly, SF and tBHQ do not have any effect on autophagy. In fact, SF and tBHQ alleviate arsenic-mediated deregulation of autophagy. Collectively, these findings provide evidence that arsenic causes prolonged activation of Nrf2 through autophagy dysfunction, possibly providing a scenario similar to that of constitutive activation of Nrf2 found in certain human cancers. This may represent a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity in humans.
PMCID: PMC3700105  PMID: 23589329
7.  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
8.  Nrf2 signaling: An adaptive response pathway for protection against environmental toxic insults 
Mutation research  2007;659(1-2):31-39.
Human exposures to environmental toxicants have been associated with development of a number of diseases. Animal experiments have identified a number of cytoprotective enzymes under the transcriptional control of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) including electrophile conjugation and antioxidative enzymes and enzymes responsible for the production of antioxidants, reducing equivalents and cofactors. The up-regulation of these enzymes represents an adaptive response which occurs in the face of exposure to electrophilic or oxidative compounds thereby leading to enhanced metabolism of these molecules or their reactive metabolites. This adaptive response is regulated by an interaction between Keap1 and Nrf2 in which the exposure to reactive molecules is sensed either directly by Keap1 or indirectly by cellular signaling cascades resulting in activation of Nrf2 transcriptional regulation. The Nrf2-mediated adaptive response has been shown to attenuate toxicity and carcinogenesis during electrophile or oxidative stress as well as inflammation in rodent models. The cytoprotective attributes of the Nrf2 signaling pathway have been targeted for chemoprevention as administration of Nrf2-inducing agents has been shown to result in decreased carcinogenesis in animal models and altered carcinogen metabolism in humans. On the other hand, polymorphisms in the Nrf2 signaling pathway can lead to differential susceptibility to disease while mutations in the Nrf2 signaling pathway have been shown to an effective mechanism for cancer cells to evade chemotherapy. Overall, the Nrf2 cytoprotective adaptive response has evolved to be a powerful protective strategy for organisms against exposure to environmental toxicants and may provide insight into differential disease susceptibilities across populations and responses to therapies designed to alleviate these conditions.
PMCID: PMC2585047  PMID: 18164232
9.  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
10.  Tanshinone I Activates the Nrf2-Dependent Antioxidant Response and Protects Against As(III)-Induced Lung Inflammation In Vitro and In Vivo 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(14):1647-1661.
Aims: The NF-E2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling pathway regulates the cellular antioxidant response and activation of Nrf2 has recently been shown to limit tissue damage from exposure to environmental toxicants, including As(III). In an attempt to identify improved molecular agents for systemic protection against environmental insults, we have focused on the identification of novel medicinal plant-derived Nrf2 activators. Results: Tanshinones [tanshinone I (T-I), tanshinone IIA, dihydrotanshinone, cryptotanshinone], phenanthrenequinone-based redox therapeutics derived from the medicinal herb Salvia miltiorrhiza, have been tested as experimental therapeutics for Nrf2-dependent cytoprotection. Using a dual luciferase reporter assay overexpressing wild-type or mutant Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1), we demonstrate that T-I is a potent Keap1-C151-dependent Nrf2 activator that stabilizes Nrf2 by hindering its ubiquitination. In human bronchial epithelial cells exposed to As(III), T-I displays pronounced cytoprotective activity with upregulation of Nrf2-orchestrated gene expression. In Nrf2 wild-type mice, systemic administration of T-I attenuates As(III) induced inflammatory lung damage, a protective effect not observed in Nrf2 knockout mice. Innovation: Tanshinones have been identified as a novel class of Nrf2-inducers for antioxidant tissue protection in an in vivo As(III) inhalation model, that is relevant to low doses of environmental exposure. Conclusion: T-I represents a prototype Nrf2-activator that displays cytoprotective activity upon systemic administration targeting lung damage originating from environmental insults. T-I based Nrf2-directed systemic intervention may provide therapeutic benefit in protecting other organs against environmental insults. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 1647–1661.
PMCID: PMC3809600  PMID: 23394605
11.  The Cinnamon-derived Dietary Factor Cinnamic Aldehyde Activates the Nrf2-dependent Antioxidant Response in Human Epithelial Colon Cells 
Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)  2010;15(5):3338-3355.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major cause of tumor-related morbidity and mortality worldwide. Recent research suggests that pharmacological intervention using dietary factors that activate the redox sensitive Nrf2/Keap1-ARE signaling pathway may represent a promising strategy for chemoprevention of human cancer including CRC. In our search for dietary Nrf2 activators with potential chemopreventive activity targeting CRC, we have focused our studies on trans-cinnamic aldehyde (cinnamaldeyde, CA), the key flavor compound in cinnamon essential oil. Here we demonstrate that CA and an ethanolic extract (CE) prepared from Cinnamomum cassia bark, standardized for CA content by GC-MS analysis, display equipotent activity as inducers of Nrf2 transcriptional activity. In human colon cancer cells (HCT116, HT29) and non-immortalized primary fetal colon cells (FHC), CA- and CE-treatment upregulated cellular protein levels of Nrf2 and established Nrf2 targets involved in the antioxidant response including heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS, catalytic subunit). CA- and CE-pretreatment strongly upregulated cellular glutathione levels and protected HCT116 cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced genotoxicity and arsenic-induced oxidative insult. Taken together our data demonstrate that the cinnamon-derived food factor CA is a potent activator of the Nrf2-orchestrated antioxidant response in cultured human epithelial colon cells. CA may therefore represent an underappreciated chemopreventive dietary factor targeting colorectal carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3101712  PMID: 20657484
colon cancer; Nrf2-activator; cinnamic aldehyde; antioxidant response
12.  Dual Roles of Nrf2 in Cancer 
In response to oxidative stress, the transcription factor NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) controls the fate of cells through transcriptional upregulation of antioxidant response element (ARE)-bearing genes, including those encoding endogenous antioxidants, phase II detoxifying enzymes, and transporters. Expression of the Nrf2-dependent proteins is critical for ameliorating or eliminating toxicants/carcinogens to maintain cellular redox homeostasis. As a result, activation of the Nrf2 pathway, by naturally-occurring compounds or synthetic chemicals at sub-toxic doses, confers protection against subsequent toxic/carcinogenic exposure. Thus, the use of dietary compounds or synthetic chemicals to boost the Nrf2-dependent adaptive response to counteract environmental insults has emerged to be a promising strategy for cancer prevention. Interestingly, recent emerging data has revealed the “dark” side of Nrf2. Nrf2 and its downstream genes are overexpressed in many cancer cell lines and human cancer tissues, giving cancer cells an advantage for survival and growth. Furthermore, Nrf2 is upregulated in resistant cancer cells and is thought to be responsible for acquired chemoresistance. Therefore, it may be necessary to inhibit the Nrf2 pathway during chemotherapy. This review is primarily focused on the role of Nrf2 in cancer, with emphasis on the recent findings indicating the cancer promoting function of Nrf2 and its role in acquired chemoresistance.
PMCID: PMC2652397  PMID: 18838122
13.  Activation of the Nrf2 Pathway by Inorganic Arsenic in Human Hepatocytes and the Role of Transcriptional Repressor Bach1 
Previous studies have proved that the environmental toxicant, inorganic arsenic, activates nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) pathway in many different cell types. This study tried to explore the hepatic Nrf2 pathway upon arsenic treatment comprehensively, since liver is one of the major target organs of arsenical toxicity. Our results showed that inorganic arsenic significantly induced Nrf2 protein and mRNA expression in Chang human hepatocytes. We also observed a dose-dependent increase of antioxidant response element- (ARE-) luciferase activity. Both the mRNA and protein levels of NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) were all upregulated dramatically. On the other hand, entry and accumulation of Nrf2 protein in the nucleus, while exportting the transcriptional repressor BTB and CNC homology 1 (Bach1) from nucleus to cytoplasm, were also confirmed by western blot and immunofluorescence assay. Our results therefore confirmed the arsenic-induced Nrf2 pathway activation in hepatocytes and also suggested that the translocation of Bach1 was associated with the regulation of Nrf2 pathway by arsenic. Hepatic Nrf2 pathway plays indispensable roles for cellular defenses against arsenic hepatotoxicity, and the interplay of Bach1 and Nrf2 may be helpful to understand the self-defensive responses and the diverse biological effects of arsenicals.
PMCID: PMC3664501  PMID: 23738048
14.  Ectodermal-Neural Cortex 1 Down-Regulates Nrf2 at the Translational Level 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5492.
The transcription factor Nrf2 is the master regulator of a cellular defense mechanism against environmental insults. The Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response is accomplished by the transcription of a battery of genes that encode phase II detoxifying enzymes, xenobiotic transporters, and antioxidants. Coordinated expression of these genes is critical in protecting cells from toxic and carcinogenic insults and in maintaining cellular redox homeostasis. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway is primarily controlled by Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1), which is a molecular switch that turns on or off the Nrf2 signaling pathway according to intracellular redox conditions. Here we report our finding of a novel Nrf2 suppressor ectodermal-neural cortex 1 (ENC1), which is a BTB-Kelch protein and belongs to the same family as Keap1. Transient expression of ENC1 reduced steady-state levels of Nrf2 and its downstream gene expression. Although ENC1 interacted with Keap1 indirectly, the ENC1-mediated down-regulation of Nrf2 was independent of Keap1. The negative effect of ENC1 on Nrf2 was not due to a change in the stability of Nrf2 because neither proteasomal nor lysosomal inhibitors had any effects. Overexpression of ENC1 did not result in a change in the level of Nrf2 mRNA, rather, it caused a decrease in the rate of Nrf2 protein synthesis. These results demonstrate that ENC1 functions as a negative regulator of Nrf2 through suppressing Nrf2 protein translation, which adds another level of complexity in controlling the Nrf2 signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC2675063  PMID: 19424503
15.  Deficiency in the nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 renders pancreatic β-cells vulnerable to arsenic-induced cell damage 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2012;264(3):315-323.
Chronic human exposure to inorganic arsenic (iAs), a potent environmental oxidative stressor, is associated with increased prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, where impairment of pancreatic β-cell function is a key pathogenic factor. Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a central transcription factor regulating cellular adaptive response to oxidative stress. However, persistent activation of Nrf2 in response to chronic oxidative stress, including inorganic arsenite (iAs3+) exposure, blunts glucose-triggered reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling and impairs glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). In the current study, we found that MIN6 pancreatic β-cells with stable knockdown of Nrf2 (Nrf2-KD) by lentiviral shRNA and pancreatic islets isolated from Nrf2-knockout (Nrf2−/−) mice exhibited reduced expression of several antioxidant and detoxification enzymes in response to acute iAs3+ exposure. As a result, Nrf2-KD MIN6 cells and Nrf2−/− islets were more susceptible to iAs3+ and monomethylarsonous acid (MMA3+)-induced cell damage, as measured by decreased cell viability, augmented apoptosis and morphological change. Pretreatment of MIN6 cells with Nrf2 activator tert-butylhydroquinone protected the cells from iAs3+-induced cell damage in an Nrf2-dependent fashion. In contrast, antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine protected Nrf2-KD MIN6 cells against acute cytotoxicity of iAs3+. The present study demonstrates that Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response is critical in the pancreatic β-cell defense mechanism against acute cytotoxicity by arsenic. The findings here, combined with our previous results on the inhibitory effect of antioxidants on ROS signaling and GSIS, suggest that Nrf2 plays paradoxical roles in pancreatic β-cell dysfunction induced by environmental arsenic exposure.
PMCID: PMC3478490  PMID: 23000044
arsenic; diabetes; pancreatic β-cell; islets; Nrf2; oxidative stress; cytotoxicity
16.  Targeted Deletion of Nrf2 Reduces Urethane-Induced Lung Tumor Development in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26590.
Nrf2 is a key transcription factor that regulates cellular redox and defense responses. However, permanent Nrf2 activation in human lung carcinomas promotes pulmonary malignancy and chemoresistance. We tested the hypothesis that Nrf2 has cell survival properties and lack of Nrf2 suppresses chemically-induced pulmonary neoplasia by treating Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2-/- mice with urethane. Airway inflammation and injury were assessed by bronchoalveolar lavage analyses and histopathology, and lung tumors were analyzed by gross and histologic analysis. We used transcriptomics to assess Nrf2-dependent changes in pulmonary gene transcripts at multiple stages of neoplasia. Lung hyperpermeability, cell death and apoptosis, and inflammatory cell infiltration were significantly higher in Nrf2-/- mice compared to Nrf2+/+ mice 9 and 11 wk after urethane. Significantly fewer lung adenomas were found in Nrf2-/- mice than in Nrf2+/+ mice at 12 and 22 wk. Nrf2 modulated expression of genes involved cell-cell signaling, glutathione metabolism and oxidative stress response, and immune responses during early stage neoplasia. In lung tumors, Nrf2-altered genes had roles in transcriptional regulation of cell cycle and proliferation, carcinogenesis, organismal injury and abnormalities, xenobiotic metabolism, and cell-cell signaling genes. Collectively, Nrf2 deficiency decreased susceptibility to urethane-induced lung tumorigenesis in mice. Cell survival properties of Nrf2 were supported, at least in part, by reduced early death of initiated cells and heightened advantage for tumor cell expansion in Nrf2+/+ mice relative to Nrf2-/- mice. Our results were consistent with the concept that Nrf2 over-activation is an adaptive response of cancer conferring resistance to anti-cancer drugs and promoting malignancy.
PMCID: PMC3198791  PMID: 22039513
17.  Nrf2 activation supports cell survival during hypoxia and hypoxia/reoxygenation in cardiomyoblasts; the roles of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species☆ 
Redox Biology  2013;1(1):418-426.
Adaptive mechanisms involving upregulation of cytoprotective genes under the control of transcription factors such as Nrf2 exist to protect cells from permanent damage and dysfunction under stress conditions. Here we explore of the hypothesis that Nrf2 activation by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species modulates cytotoxicity during hypoxia (H) with and without reoxygenation (H/R) in H9C2 cardiomyoblasts. Using MnTBap as a cell permeable superoxide dismutase (SOD) mimetic and peroxynitrite scavenger and L-NAME as an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), we have shown that MnTBap inhibited the cytotoxic effects of hypoxic stress with and without reoxygenation. However, L-NAME only afforded protection during H. Under reoxygenation, conditions, cytotoxicity was increased by the presence of L-NAME. Nrf2 activation was inhibited independently by MnTBap and L-NAME under H and H/R. The increased cytotoxicity and inhibition of Nrf2 activation by the presence of L-NAME during reoxygenation suggests that NOS activity plays an important role in cell survival at least in part via Nrf2-independent pathways. In contrast, O2−• scavenging by MnTBap prevented both toxicity and Nrf2 activation during H and H/R implying that toxicity is largely dependent on O2−•.To confirm the importance of Nrf2 for myoblast metabolism, Nrf2 knockdown with siRNA reduced cell survival by 50% during 4 h hypoxia with and without 2 h of reoxygenation and although cellular glutathione (GSH) was depleted during H and H/R, GSH loss was not exacerbated by Nrf2 knockdown. These data support distinctive roles for ROS and RNS during H and H/R for Nrf2 induction which are important for survival independently of GSH salvage.
Graphical abstract
ROS and RNS in cell survival and death during hypoxia and reoxygenation; the role of Nrf2. There is evidence of superoxide anion radical and nitric oxide production in both hypoxia and H/R. While MnTBap inhibited the toxicity of both stressors, L-NAME only protected against the toxicity of hypoxia implying that nitric oxide was required for survival during H/R. Both superoxide anion radical and nitric oxide elicited Nrf2 activation during H/R and to a lesser extent during hypoxia. Nrf2 knockdown prevented GSH induction and also reduced survival during H/R by 50% but only by 30% during hypoxia. RNS are essential for Nrf2 activation but may also exert cytoprotective effects during H/R by other means.
•Cardiomyoblast toxicity during hypoxia is dependent on O2−• and NO•.•Nrf2 activation is important for cardiomyoblast survival during hypoxia or hypoxia/reoxygenation, but, restoration of GSH is not required.•NOS activity is essential for the adaptation of cardiomyoblasts to hypoxia/reoxygenation but survival may be independent of Nrf2.
PMCID: PMC3814985  PMID: 24191235
CREB, cAMP-responsive element-binding protein; HIF-1, hypoxia-inducible factor; KEAP1, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1; L-NAME, L-NG-nitroarginine methyl ester; MnTBap, manganese [III] tetrakis (4-benzoic acid) porphyrin; NO, nitric oxide; NFκB, nuclear factor kappa B; NOS, nitric oxide synthase; NOX, NADPH oxidase; RNS, reactive nitrogen species; ROS, reactive oxygen species; Nrf2, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2; DHE, dihydroethidium; DAF-2-DA, 4,5-diaminofluorescein diacetate; Adaptive; MnTBap; L-NAME; RNS; ROS; Glutathione
18.  Differential effect of covalent protein modification and glutathione depletion on the transcriptional response of Nrf2 and NF-κB☆ 
Biochemical Pharmacology  2010;80(3):410-421.
Graphical abstract
CRMs activate Nrf2, but inhibit NF-κB, and GSH depletion without covalent modification activates both Nrf2 and NF-κB. This leads to cellular protection against the potentially harmful effects of redox perturbation.
Liver injury associated with exposure to therapeutic agents that undergo hepatic metabolism can involve the formation of reactive metabolites. These may cause redox perturbation which can result in oxidative stress as well as protein modification leading to activation or inhibition of cellular transcriptional responses. Nevertheless, the effects of these challenges on more than one transcriptional pathway simultaneously remain unclear. We have investigated two transcription factors known to be sensitive to electrophilic stress and redox perturbation, Nrf2 and NF-κB, in mouse liver cells. Cellular stress was induced by the probes: N-acetyl-p-benzoquinineimine (NAPQI), the reactive metabolite of acetaminophen; dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB), a model electrophile; and buthionine (S,R)-sulfoximine (BSO), an inhibitor of glutamate-cysteine ligase. NAPQI, DNCB and BSO can all cause glutathione (GSH) depletion; however only NAPQI and DNCB can covalently bind proteins. We also employed RNAi to manipulate Keap1 (the inhibitor of Nrf2), Nrf2 itself and NF-κB-p65, to understand their roles in the response to drug stress. All three chemicals induced Nrf2, but NF-κB binding activity was only increased after BSO treatment. In fact, NF-κB binding activity decreased after exposure to NAPQI and DNCB. While RNAi depletion of Keap1 led to reduced toxicity following exposure to DNCB, depletion of Nrf2 and NF-κB augmented toxicity. Interestingly, increased Nrf2 caused by Keap1 depletion was reversed by co-depletion of NF-κB. We demonstrate that Keap1/Nrf2 and NF-κB respond differently to electrophiles that bind proteins covalently and the redox perturbation associated with glutathione depletion, and that crosstalk may enable NF-κB to partly influence Nrf2 expression during cellular stress.
PMCID: PMC2884179  PMID: 20416283
DILI, drug-induced liver injury; CRMs, chemically reactive metabolites; GSH, glutathione; Nrf2, nuclear factor-erythroid 2 (NF-E2)-related factor; NF-κB, NF-kappa B; ARE, anti-oxidant response element; NAPQI, N-acetyl-p-benzoquinineimine; DNCB, dinitrochlorobenzene; BSO, buthionine (S,R)-sulfoximine; RNAi, RNA interference; Nrf2; Keap1; NF-κB; RNAi; Cellular stress; Transcriptional response
19.  Glucose availability is a decisive factor for Nrf2-mediated gene expression☆ 
Redox Biology  2013;1(1):359-365.
Activation of the transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2) is one of the major cellular defense lines against oxidative and xenobiotic stress, but also influences genes involved in lipid and glucose metabolism. It is unresolved whether the cytoprotective and metabolic responses mediated by Nrf2 are connected or separable events in non-malignant cells. In this study we show that activation of Nrf2, either by the small molecule sulforaphane or knockout of the Nrf2 inhibitor Keap1, leads to increased cellular glucose uptake and increased glucose addiction in fibroblasts. Upon Nrf2 activation glucose is preferentially metabolized through the pentose phosphate pathway with increased production of NADPH. Interference with the supply of glucose or the pentose phosphate pathway and NADPH generation not only hampers Nrf2-mediated detoxification of reactive oxygen species on the enzyme level but also Nrf2-initiated expression of antioxidant defense proteins, such as glutathione reductase and heme-oxygenase1. We conclude that the Nrf2-dependent protection against oxidative stress relies on an intact pentose phosphate pathway and that there is crosstalk between metabolism and detoxification already at the level of gene expression in mammalian cells.
Graphical abstract
•Activation of Nrf2 results in increased cellular glucose uptake.•Upon activation of Nrf2 glucose is preferentially metabolized through the PPP.•The resulting increase in NADPH is not only pivotal for functional detoxification of ROS, but also for Nrf2-dependent gene expression in mammalian cells.•These data complement our understanding of the metabolic shade of Nrf2 action.
PMCID: PMC3757705  PMID: 24024172
3BP, 3-bromopyruvate; ATP, adenosine triphosphate; ctrl, control; DCF, dichloroflourescein; DHEA, dehydroandrostendione; DMSO, dimethylsulfoxide; G6PD, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase; Glut1, glucose transporter 1; GR, glutathione reductase; HO-1, heme oxygenase-1; Keap1, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein1; NADP, nicotine adenine dinucleotide phosphate; Nrf2, nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2; NQO1, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1; Maf, small masculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma; MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblasts; OXPHOS, oxidative phosphorylation; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; PPP, pentose phosphate pathway; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SFN, sulforaphane; WT, wild type; Nrf2; Glucose addiction; ROS detoxification
20.  Beneficial Role of Nrf2 in Regulating NADPH Generation and Consumption 
Toxicological Sciences  2011;123(2):590-600.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that promotes the transcription of cytoprotective genes in response to oxidative and electrophilic stresses. Most functions of Nrf2 were identified by studying biological models with Nrf2 deficiency, however, little is known about the effects of graded Nrf2 activation. In the present study, genomic gene expression profiles by microarray analysis were characterized with a “gene dose-response” model in livers of Nrf2-null mice, wild-type mice, Kelch-like ECH associating protein 1 (Keap1)-knockdown (Keap1-KD) mice with enhanced Nrf2 activation, and Keap1-hepatocyte knockout (Keap1-HKO) mice with maximum hepatic Nrf2 activation. Hepatic nuclear Nrf2 protein, glutathione concentrations, and known Nrf2 target genes were increased in a dose-dependent manner. In total, 115 genes were identified to be constitutively induced and 80 genes suppressed with graded Nrf2 activation. Messenger RNA of genes encoding enzymes in the pentose phosphate pathway and enzyme were low with Nrf2 deficiency and high with Nrf2 activation, indicating that Nrf2 is important for NADPH production. NADPH is the major reducing resource to scavenge oxidative stress, including regenerating glutathione and thioredoxin and is also used for anabolic pathways including lipid synthesis. High performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet absorbance analysis confirmed that hepatic NADPH concentration was lowest in Nrf2-null mice and highest in Keap1-HKO mice. In addition, genes involved in fatty acid synthesis and desaturation were downregulated with graded Nrf2 activation. In conclusion, the present study suggests that Nrf2 protects against environmental insults by promoting the generation of NADPH, which is preferentially consumed by aiding scavenging of oxidative stress rather than fatty acid synthesis and desaturation.
PMCID: PMC3179677  PMID: 21775727
Nrf2; microarray; liver
21.  Chemoprevention of dietary digitoflavone on colitis-associated colon tumorigenesis through inducing Nrf2 signaling pathway and inhibition of inflammation 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:48.
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) has emerged as a novel target for the prevention of colorectal cancer (CRC). Many chemopreventive compounds associated with Nrf2 activation are effective in preclinical systems and many on-going clinical trials are showing promising findings. In present study we evaluated the cytoprotective effect and chemopreventive properties of dietary digitoflavone.
A cell based Antioxidant Response Element (ARE)-driven luciferase reporter system was applied to screen potential Nrf2 activators. Activation of Nrf2 by digitoflavone was confirmed through mRNA, protein and GSH level assay in Caco-2 cell line. The cytoprotective effect of digitoflavone was evaluated in H2O2-induced oxidative stress model and further signaling pathways analysis was used to determine the target of digitoflavone induced Nrf2 activation. An AOM-DSS induced colorectal cancer model was used to assess the chemopreventive effect of digitoflavone.
Micromolarity (10 μM) level of digitoflavone increased Nrf2 expressing, nuclear translocation and expression of downstream phase II antioxidant enzymes. Furthermore, digitoflavone decreased H2O2-induced oxidative stress and cell death via p38 MAPK-Nrf2/ARE pathway. In vivo study, 50 mg/kg digitoflavone significantly reduced AOM-DSS induced tumor incidence, number and size.
These observations suggest that digitoflavone is a novel Nrf2 pathway activator, and protects against oxidative stress-induced cell injury. The results of the present study add further evidence of the molecular mechanisms that allow digitoflavone to exert protective effects and reaffirm its potential role as a chemopreventive agent in colorectal carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3973863  PMID: 24602443
Digitoflavone; Luteolin; Reactive oxygen species (ROS); Nrf2; p38 MAPK; Chemoprevention
22.  Nuclear factor erythroid-derived factor 2-related factor 2 regulates transcription of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β during adipogenesis 
Free radical biology & medicine  2011;52(2):462-472.
Nuclear factor erythroid-derived factor 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a cap-n-collar basic leucine zipper transcription factor that is involved in the cellular adaptive response to oxidative stress. Our previous study reported that targeted disruption of the Nrf2 gene in mice decreases adipose tissue mass and protects against obesity induced by a high-fat diet. Deficiency of Nrf2 in preadipocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts led to impaired adipogenesis. Consistent with these findings, the current study found that lack of Nrf2 in primary cultured mouse preadipocytes and 3T3-L1 cells hampered adipogenic differentiation induced by hormonal cocktails. Stable knockdown of Nrf2 in 3T3-L1 cells blocked the enhanced adipogenesis caused by deficiency of kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1), a Cul3-adapter protein that allows for Nrf2 to be ubiquinated and degraded by the 26S protesome complex. In addition, increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and activation of Nrf2 occurred at the very early stage upon adipogenic hormonal challenge in 3T3-L1 cells, followed by an immediate induction of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ). Knockdown of Nrf2 led to reduced expression of C/EBPβ induced by adipogenic hormonal cocktails, chemical Nrf2 activators or Keap1 silencing. Cebpβ promoter-driven reporter assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation suggested that Nrf2 associates with a consensus antioxidant response element (ARE) binding site in the promoter of the Cebpβ gene during adipogenesis and upregulates its expression. These findings demonstrate a novel role of Nrf2 beyond xenobiotic detoxification and antioxidant response, and suggest that Nrf2 is one of the transcription factors that control the early events of adipogenesis by regulating expression of Cebpβ.
PMCID: PMC3307524  PMID: 22138520
Nrf2; C/EBPβ; Adipogenesis
23.  Nrf2-regulated glutathione recycling independent of biosynthesis is critical for cell survival during oxidative stress 
Free radical biology & medicine  2008;46(4):443-453.
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is the primary transcription factor protecting cells from oxidative stress by regulating cytoprotective genes, including the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) pathway. GSH maintains cellular redox status and affects redox signaling, cell proliferation, and death. GSH homeostasis is regulated by de novo synthesis as well as GSH redox state; previous studies have demonstrated that Nrf2 regulates GSH homeostasis by affecting de novo synthesis. We report that Nrf2 modulates the GSH redox state by regulating glutathione reductase (GSR). In response to oxidants, lungs and embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from Nrf2-deficient (Nrf2−/−) mice showed lower levels of GSR mRNA, protein, and enzyme activity relative to wild type (Nrf2+/+). Nrf2−/− MEFs exhibited greater accumulation of glutathione disulfide and cytotoxicity compared to Nrf2+/+ MEFs in response to t-butylhydroquinone, which was rescued by restoring GSR. Microinjection of glutathione disulfide induced greater apoptosis in Nrf2−/− MEFs compared to Nrf2+/+ MEFs. In silico promoter analysis of the GSR gene revealed three putative antioxidant-response elements (ARE1, −44; ARE2, −813; ARE3, −1041). Reporter analysis, site-directed mutagenesis, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated binding of Nrf2 to two AREs distal to the transcription start site. Overall, Nrf2 is critical for maintaining the GSH redox state via transcriptional regulation of GSR and protecting cells against oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC2634824  PMID: 19028565
Nrf2; Oxidative stress; Glutathione; Glutathione reductase; Cigarette smoke; COPD; Emphysema; Free radicals
24.  Genetic versus chemoprotective activation of Nrf2 signaling: overlapping yet distinct gene expression profiles between Keap1 knockout and triterpenoid-treated mice 
Carcinogenesis  2009;30(6):1024-1031.
Loss of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling increases susceptibility to acute toxicity, inflammation and carcinogenesis in mice due to the inability to mount adaptive responses. In contrast, disruption of Keap1 (a cytoplasmic modifier of Nrf2 turnover) protects against these stresses in mice, although inactivating mutations in Keap1 have been identified recently in some human cancers. Global characterization of Nrf2 activation is important to exploit this pathway for chemoprevention in healthy, yet at-risk individuals and also to elucidate the consequences of hijacking the pathway in Keap1-mutant human cancers. Liver-targeted conditional Keap1-null, Albumin-Cre:Keap1(flox/−) (CKO) mice provide a model of genetic activation of Nrf2 signaling. By coupling global gene expression analysis of CKO mice with analysis of pharmacologic activation using the synthetic oleanane triterpenoid 1-[2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl]imidazole (CDDO-Im), we are able to gain insight into pathways affected by Nrf2 activation. CDDO-Im is an extremely potent activator of Nrf2 signaling. CKO mice were used to identify genes modulated by genetic activation of Nrf2 signaling. The CKO response was compared with hepatic global gene expression changes in wild-type mice treated with CDDO-Im at a maximal Nrf2 activating dose. The results show that genetic and pharmacologic activation of Nrf2 signaling modulates pathways beyond detoxication and cytoprotection, with the largest cluster of genes associated with lipid metabolism. Genetic activation of Nrf2 results in much larger numbers of detoxication and lipid metabolism gene changes. Additionally, analysis of pharmacologic activation suggests that Nrf2 is the primary mediator of CDDO-Im activity, though other cell-signaling targets are also modulated following an oral dose of 30 μmol/kg.
PMCID: PMC2691141  PMID: 19386581
25.  Curcumin Protects Human Keratinocytes against Inorganic Arsenite-Induced Acute Cytotoxicity through an NRF2-Dependent Mechanism 
Human exposure to inorganic arsenic leads to various dermal disorders, including hyperkeratosis and skin cancer. Curcumin is demonstrated to induce remarkable antioxidant activity in a variety of cells and tissues. The present study aimed at identifying curcumin as a potent activator of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and demonstrating its protective effect against inorganic arsenite- (iAs3+-) induced cytotoxicity in human keratinocytes. We found that curcumin led to nuclear accumulation of NRF2 protein and increased the expression of antioxidant response element- (ARE-) regulated genes in HaCaT keratinocytes in concentration- and time-dependent manners. High concentration of curcumin (20 μM) also increased protein expression of long isoforms of NRF1. Treatment with low concentrations of curcumin (2.5 or 5 μM) effectively increased the viability and survival of HaCaT cells against iAs3+-induced cytotoxicity as assessed by the MTT assay and flow cytometry and also attenuated iAs3+-induced expression of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP protein. Selective knockdown of NRF2 or KEAP1 by lentiviral shRNAs significantly diminished the cytoprotection conferred by curcumin, suggesting that the protection against iAs3+-induced cytotoxicity is dependent on the activation of NRF2. Our results provided a proof of the concept of using curcumin to activate the NRF2 pathway to alleviate arsenic-induced dermal damage.
PMCID: PMC3654359  PMID: 23710286

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