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.
In response to oxidative stress, Nrf2 and p21 Cip1/WAF1 are both upregulated to protect cells from oxidative damage. Nrf2 is constantly ubiquitinated by a Keap1 dimer that interacts with a weak-binding 29DLG motif and a strong-binding 79ETGE motif in Nrf2, resulting in degradation of Nrf2. Modification of the redox-sensitive cysteine residues on Keap1 disrupts the Keap1-29DLG binding, leading to diminished Nrf2 ubiquitination and activation of the antioxidant response. However, the underlying mechanism by which p21 protects cells from oxidative damage remains unclear. Here, we present molecular and genetic evidence suggesting that the antioxidant function of p21 is mediated through activation of Nrf2 by stabilizing the Nrf2 protein. The 154KRR motif in p21 directly interacts with the 29DLG and 79ETGE motifs in Nrf2, and thus, competes with Keap1 for Nrf2 binding, compromising ubiquitination of Nrf2. Furthermore, the physiological significance of our findings was demonstrated in vivo using p21-deficient mice.
The bZIP transcription factor Nrf2 has emerged as a pivotal regulator of intracellular redox homeostasis by controlling the expression of many endogenous antioxidants and phase II detoxification enzymes. Upon oxidative stress, Nrf2 is induced at protein levels through redox-sensitive modifications on cysteine residues of Keap1, a component of the E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets Nrf2 for ubiquitin-dependent degradation. The mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have previously been proposed to regulate Nrf2 in response to oxidative stress. However, the exact role of MAPKs and the underlying molecular mechanism remain poorly defined. Here we report the first evidence that Nrf2 is phosphorylated in vivo by MAPKs. We have identified multiple serine/threonine residues as major targets of MAPK-mediated phosphorylation. Combined alanine substitution on those residues leads to a moderate decrease in the transcriptional activity of Nrf2, most likely due to a slight reduction in its nuclear accumulation. More importantly, Nrf2 protein stability, primarily controlled by Keap1, is not altered by Nrf2 phosphorylation in vivo. These data indicate that direct phosphorylation of Nrf2 by MAPKs has limited contribution in modulating Nrf2 activity. We suggest that MAPKs regulate the Nrf2 signaling pathway mainly through indirect mechanisms.
Nrf2 is the key transcription factor regulating the antioxidant response. Nrf2 signaling is repressed by Keap1 at basal condition and induced by oxidative stress. Keap1 is recently identified as a Cullin 3-dependent substrate adaptor protein. A two-sites binding “hinge & latch” model vividly depicts how Keap1 can efficiently present Nrf2 as substrate for ubiquitination. Oxidative perturbation can impede Keap1-mediated Nrf2 ubiquitination but fail to disrupt Nrf2/Keap1 binding. Nrf2 per se is a redox-sensitive transcripon factor. A new Nrf2-mediated redox signaling model is proposed based on these new discoveries. Free floating Nrf2 protein functions as a redox-sensitive probe. Keap1 instead functions as a gate keeper to control the availability of Nrf2 probes and thus regulates the overall sensitivity of the redox signaling.
Nrf2; Keap1; redox
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.
The NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a key transcriptional regulator of antioxidant defense and detoxification. To directly monitor stabilization of Nrf2, we fused its Neh2 domain, responsible for the interaction with its nucleocytoplasmic regulator, Keap1, to firefly luciferase (Neh2-luciferase). We show that Neh2 domain is sufficient for recognition, ubiquitination, and proteasomal degradation of Neh2-luciferase fusion protein. The Neh2-luc reporter system allows direct monitoring of the adaptive response to redox stress and classification of drugs based on the time course of reporter activation. The reporter was used to screen the Spectrum library of 2000 biologically active compounds to identify activators of Nrf2. The most robust and yet nontoxic Nrf2 activators found—nordihydroguaiaretic acid, fisetin, and gedunin—induced astrocyte-dependent neuroprotection from oxidative stress via an Nrf2-dependent mechanism.
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.
The Keap1–Nrf2 [Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1–nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2] pathway plays a central role in the protection of cells against oxidative and xenobiotic stresses. Nrf2 is a potent transcription activator that recognizes a unique DNA sequence known as the antioxidant response element (ARE). Under normal conditions, Nrf2 binds to Keap1 in the cytoplasm, resulting in proteasomal degradation. Following exposure to electrophiles or reactive oxygen species, Nrf2 becomes stabilized, translocates into the nucleus, and activates the transcription of various cytoprotective genes. Increasing attention has been paid to the role of Nrf2 in cancer cells because the constitutive stabilization of Nrf2 has been observed in many human cancers with poor prognosis. Recent studies have shown that the antioxidant and detoxification activities of Nrf2 confer chemo- and radio-resistance to cancer cells. In this review, we provide an overview of the Keap1–Nrf2 system and discuss its role under physiological and pathological conditions, including cancers. We also introduce the results of our recent study describing Nrf2 function in the metabolism of cancer cells. Nrf2 likely confers a growth advantage to cancer cells through enhancing cytoprotection and anabolism. Finally, we discuss the possible impact of Nrf2 inhibitors on cancer therapy.
stress response; redox homeostasis; transcription; purine nucleotide; glutathione
The expression of the phase 2 detoxification enzymes and antioxidant proteins is induced at the transcriptional level by Nrf2 and negatively regulated at the posttranslational level by Keap1 through protein-protein interactions with and subsequent proteolysis of Nrf2. We found that the Neh2 domain of Nrf2 is an intrinsically disordered but biologically active regulatory domain containing a 33-residue central α-helix followed by a mini antiparallel β-sheet. Isothermal calorimetry analysis indicated that one Neh2 molecule interacts with two molecules of Keap1 via two binding sites, the stronger binding ETGE motif and the weaker binding DLG motif. Nuclear magnetic resonance titration study showed that these two motifs of the Neh2 domain bind to an overlapping site on the bottom surface of the β-propeller structure of Keap1. In contrast, the central α-helix of the Neh2 domain does not have any observable affinity to Keap1, suggesting that this region may serve as a bridge connecting the two motifs for the association with the two β-propeller structures of a dimer of Keap1. Based on these observations, we propose that Keap1 recruits Nrf2 by the ETGE motif and that the DLG motif of the Neh2 domain locks its lysine-rich central α-helix in a correct position to benefit ubiquitin signaling.
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.
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.
Transcription factor Nrf2 is a major regulator of genes encoding phase 2 detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant stress proteins in response to electrophilic agents and oxidative stress. In the absence of such stimuli, Nrf2 is inactive owing to its cytoplasmic retention by Keap1 and rapid degradation through the proteasome system. We examined the contribution of Keap1 to the rapid turnover of Nrf2 (half-life of less than 20 min) and found that a direct association between Keap1 and Nrf2 is required for Nrf2 degradation. In a series of domain function analyses of Keap1, we found that both the BTB and intervening-region (IVR) domains are crucial for Nrf2 degradation, implying that these two domains act to recruit ubiquitin-proteasome factors. Indeed, Cullin 3 (Cul3), a subunit of the E3 ligase complex, was found to interact specifically with Keap1 in vivo. Keap1 associates with the N-terminal region of Cul3 through the IVR domain and promotes the ubiquitination of Nrf2 in cooperation with the Cul3-Roc1 complex. These results thus provide solid evidence that Keap1 functions as an adaptor of Cul3-based E3 ligase. To our knowledge, Nrf2 and Keap1 are the first reported mammalian substrate and adaptor, respectively, of the Cul3-based E3 ligase system.
Nrf2:INrf2(Keap1) are cellular sensors of chemical and radiation induced oxidative and electrophilic stress. Nrf2 is a nuclear transcription factor that controls the expression and coordinated induction of a battery of defensive genes encoding detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant proteins. This is a mechanism of critical importance for cellular protection and cell survival. Nrf2 is retained in the cytoplasm by an inhibitor INrf2. INrf2 functions as an adapter for Cul3/Rbx1 mediated degradation of Nrf2. In response to oxidative/electrophilic stress, Nrf2 is switched on and then off by distinct early and delayed mechanisms. Oxidative/electrophilic modification of INrf2cysteine151 and/or PKC phosphorylation of Nrf2serine40 results in the escape or release of Nrf2 from INrf2. Nrf2 is stabilized and translocates to the nucleus, forms heterodimers with unknown proteins, and binds antioxidant response element (ARE) that leads to coordinated activation of gene expression. It takes less than fifteen minutes from the time of exposure to switch on nuclear import of Nrf2. This is followed by activation of a delayed mechanism that controls switching off of Nrf2 activation of gene expression. GSK3β phosphorylates Fyn at unknown threonine residue(s) leading to nuclear localization of Fyn. Fyn phosphorylates Nrf2tyrosine568 resulting in nuclear export of Nrf2, binding with INrf2 and degradation of Nrf2. The switching on and off of Nrf2 protect cells against free radical damage, prevents apoptosis and promotes cell survival.
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.
Avicins are proapoptotic and anti-inflammatory triterpene electrophiles isolated from an Australian desert tree, Acacia victoriae. The presence of two α,β unsaturated carbonyl groups (Michael reaction sites) in the side chain of the avicin molecule prompted us to study its effects on NF-E2–related factor 2 (Nrf2), a redox-regulated transcription factor that controls the expression of a battery of detoxification and antioxidant proteins via its binding to antioxidant response element (ARE). Avicin D–treated Hep G2 cells showed translocation of Nrf2 into the nucleus and a time-dependent increase in ARE activity. These properties were sensitive to DTT, suggesting that avicins affect one or more critical cysteine residues, probably on the Keap1 molecule. Downstream of ARE, an activation of a battery of stress-induced proteins occurred. The implications of these findings were evaluated in vivo in mouse skin exposed to an ancient stressor, UV light. Avicins inhibited epidermal hyperplasia, reduced p53 mutation, enhanced apoptosis, decreased generation of 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine, and enhanced expression of NADPH:quinone oxidoreductase 1 and heme oxygenase-1. These data, combined with our earlier published work, demonstrate that avicins represent a new class of plant stress metabolites capable of activating stress adaptation and suppressing proinflammatory components of the innate immune system in human cells by redox regulation. The relevance for treatment of clinical diseases in which stress responses are dysfunctional or deficient is discussed.
PALB2/FANCN is mutated in breast and pancreatic cancers and Fanconi anemia (FA). It controls the intranuclear localization, stability, and DNA repair function of BRCA2 and links BRCA1 and BRCA2 in DNA homologous recombination repair and breast cancer suppression. Here, we show that PALB2 directly interacts with KEAP1, an oxidative stress sensor that binds and represses the master antioxidant transcription factor NRF2. PALB2 shares with NRF2 a highly conserved ETGE-type KEAP1 binding motif and can effectively compete with NRF2 for KEAP1 binding. PALB2 promotes NRF2 accumulation and function in the nucleus and lowers the cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level. In addition, PALB2 also regulates the rate of NRF2 export from the nucleus following induction. Our findings identify PALB2 as a regulator of cellular redox homeostasis and provide a new link between oxidative stress and the development of cancer and FA.
Keap1/Nrf2 signaling defends organisms against the detrimental effects of oxidative stress, and has been suggested to abate its consequences, including aging-associated diseases like neurodegeneration, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Nrf2 is a prominent target for drug discovery, and Nrf2-activating agents are in clinical trials for cancer chemoprevention. However, aberrant activation of Nrf2 by keap1 somatic mutations may contribute to carcinogenesis and promote resistance to chemotherapy. To evaluate potential functions of Keap1 and Nrf2 for organismal homeostasis, we characterized the pathway in Drosophila. We demonstrate that Keap1/Nrf2 signaling in the fruitfly is activated by oxidants, induces antioxidant and detoxification responses, and confers increased tolerance to oxidative stress. Importantly, keap1 loss-of-function mutations extend the lifespan of Drosophila males, supporting a role for Nrf2 signaling in the regulation of longevity. Interestingly, cancer chemopreventive drugs potently stimulate Drosophila Nrf2 activity, suggesting the fruitfly as an experimental system to identify and characterize such agents.
The Keap1-Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway evokes an adaptive response for cell survival following endogenous (for example, inflammation) and exogenous (for example, carcinogens) stresses. Keap1 inhibits the transcriptional activation activity of Nrf2 in unstressed cells by facilitating its degradation. Through transcriptional analyses in Keap1- or Nrf2-disrupted mice, we identified interactions with the Notch1 signaling pathway. We found a functional antioxidant response element (ARE) recognized by Nrf2 in the promoter of Notch1. Notch1 regulates processes such as proliferation and cell fate decisions. We report a functional role for this cross talk between the two pathways and show that disruption of Nrf2 impeded liver regeneration following partial hepatectomy and was rescued by re-establishment of Notch1 signaling.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that mediates the upregulation of a battery of cytoprotective genes in response to cell stress. Recent studies have shown that Nrf2 also modulates immune responses and exhibits anti-inflammatory activity. In this report, we demonstrate that a common food preservative, tBHQ, can activate Nrf2 in T cells, as evidenced by Nrf2 binding to the antioxidant response element (ARE) and the subsequent upregulation of Nrf2 target genes. The activation of Nrf2 suppresses IFNγ production, while inducing the production of the Th2 cytokines, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13. Nrf2 activation also suppresses T-bet DNA binding and promotes GATA-3 DNA binding. Collectively, the present studies suggest that Nrf2 activation skews CD4+ T cells toward Th2 differentiation and thus represents a novel regulatory mechanism in CD4+ T cells. Further studies will be needed to determine whether the commercial use of Nrf2 activators as food preservatives promotes food allergies in humans.
Activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3), a member of the ATF/CREB family, is induced rapidly by various stresses. Its induction mechanism and role in response to changes in cellular redox status, however, have not been elucidated. Here, we found that NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor known to bind to antioxidant response element (ARE) in promoters, transcriptionally upregulated ATF3 expression in astrocytes. Treatment with Nrf2 activators and oxidants provoked ATF3 induction in astrocytes, whereas its expression was reduced in Nrf2-depleted cells. We further demonstrated that the consensus ARE in the ATF3 promoter is critical for Nrf2-mediation by promoter analyses using an ATF3 promoter-driven luciferase construct and a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. In addition, we found that Nrf2-dependent ATF3 induction contributed to the antioxidative and cytoprotective functions of Nrf2 in astrocytes. Taken together, our findings suggest that ATF3 is a new target for Nrf2 and has a cytoprotective function in astrocytes.
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.
CDDO-Im is a synthetic triterpenoid recently shown to induce cytoprotective genes through the Nrf2-Keap1 pathway, an important mechanism for the induction of cytoprotective genes in response to oxidative stress. Upon oxidative or electrophilic insult, the transcription factor Nrf2 translocates to the nucleus, heterodimerizes with small Maf proteins, and binds to antioxidant response elements (AREs) in the upstream promoter regions of various cytoprotective genes. To further elucidate the hepatoprotective effects of CDDO-Im, wild-type and Nrf2-null mice were pretreated with CDDO-Im (1 mg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle (DMSO), and then administered acetaminophen (500 mg/kg, i.p.). Pretreatment of wild-type mice with CDDO-Im reduced liver injury caused by acetaminophen. In contrast, hepatoprotection by CDDO-Im was not observed in Nrf2-null mice. CDDO-Im increased Nrf2 protein expression and Nrf2-ARE binding in wild-type, but not Nrf2–null mice. Furthermore, CDDO-Im increased the mRNA expression of the Nrf2 target genes NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase-1 (Nqo1); glutamate-cysteine ligase, catalytic subunit (Gclc); and heme-oxygenase-1 (Ho-1), in both a dose- and time-dependent manner. Conversely, CDDO-Im did not induce Nqo1, Gclc, and Ho-1 mRNA expression in Nrf2-null mice. Collectively, the present study shows that CDDO-Im pretreatment induces Nrf2-dependent cytoprotective genes and protects the liver from acetaminophen-induced hepatic injury.
Nrf2; CDDO-Im; oxidative stress; acetaminophen; liver
Glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC) is regulated transcriptionally by Nrf1 and Nrf2. tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBH) induces human GCLC via Nrf2-mediated trans activation of the antioxidant-responsive element (ARE). Interestingly, TBH also induces rat GCLC, but the rat GCLC promoter lacks ARE. This study examined the role of Nrf1 and Nrf2 in the transcriptional regulation of rat GCLC. The baseline and TBH-mediated increase in GCLC mRNA levels and rat GCLC promoter activity were lower in Nrf1 and Nrf2 null (F1 and F2) fibroblasts than in wild-type cells. The basal protein and mRNA levels and nuclear binding activities of c-Jun, c-Fos, p50, and p65 were lower in F1 and F2 cells and exhibited a blunted response to TBH. Lower c-Jun and p65 expression also occurs in Nrf2 null livers. Levels of other AP-1 and NF-κB family members were either unaffected (i.e., JunB) or increased (i.e., Fra-1). Overexpression of Nrf1 and Nrf2 in respective cells restored the rat GCLC promoter activity and response to TBH but not if the AP-1 and NF-κB binding sites were mutated. Fra-1 overexpression lowered endogenous GCLC expression and rat GCLC promoter activity, while Fra-1 antisense had the opposite effects. In conclusion, Nrf1 and Nrf2 regulate rat GCLC promoter by modulating the expression of key AP-1 and NF-κB family members.
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.
Nrf; INrf2 (keap1); Oxidative/electrophilic stress; Defensive gene expression; Cell signaling; Cell survival
Animal cells counteract oxidative stress and electrophilic attack through coordinated expression of a set of detoxifying and antioxidant enzyme genes mediated by transcription factor Nrf2. In unstressed cells, Nrf2 appears to be sequestered in the cytoplasm via association with an inhibitor protein, Keap1. Here, by using the yeast two-hybrid screen, human Keap1 has been identified as a partner of the nuclear protein prothymosin α. The in vivo and in vitro data indicated that the prothymosin α-Keap1 interaction is direct, highly specific, and functionally relevant. Furthermore, we showed that Keap1 is a nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling protein equipped with a nuclear export signal that is important for its inhibitory action. Prothymosin α was able to liberate Nrf2 from the Nrf2-Keap1 inhibitory complex in vitro through competition with Nrf2 for binding to the same domain of Keap1. In vivo, the level of Nrf2-dependent transcription was correlated with the intracellular level of prothymosin α by using prothymosin α overproduction and mRNA interference approaches. Our data attribute to prothymosin α the role of intranuclear dissociator of the Nrf2-Keap1 complex, thus revealing a novel function for prothymosin α and adding a new dimension to the molecular mechanisms underlying expression of oxidative stress-protecting genes.