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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.  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
3.  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
4.  MiR-28 regulates Nrf2 expression through a Keap1-independent mechanism 
NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is an important transcription factor involved in antioxidant response. Nrf2 binds antioxidant response elements (ARE) within promoters of genes encoding detoxification enzymes (e.g., NAD (P) H-quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1)) leading to their transcriptional activation. Nrf2 function is regulated post-translationally by its negative regulator Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) that binds Nrf2 and induces cytoplasmic Nrf2 degradation. Our present studies provide new evidence that Nrf2 expression can be regulated by a Keap1-independent mechanism. Here, we utilized breast epithelial cells to explore the impact of microRNA (miRNA) on Nrf2 expression. We found that Nrf2 mRNA levels are reversibly correlated with miR-28 expression and that ectopic expression of miR-28 alone reduces Nrf2 mRNA and protein levels. We further investigated the molecular mechanisms by which miR-28 inhibits Nrf2 mRNA expression. Initially, the ability of miR-28 to regulate the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of Nrf2 mRNA was evaluated via luciferase reporter assay. We observed that miR-28 reduces wild-type Nrf2 3′UTR luciferase reporter activity and this repression is eliminated upon mutation of the miR-28 targeting seed sequence within the Nrf2 3′UTR. Moreover, over-expression of miR-28 decreased endogenous Nrf2 mRNA and protein expression. We also explored the impact of miR-28 on Keap1-Nrf2 interactions and found that miR-28 overexpression does not alter Keap1 protein levels and has no effect on the interaction of Keap1 and Nrf2. Our findings, that miR-28 targets the 3′UTR of Nrf2 mRNA and decreases Nrf2 expression, suggest that this miRNA is involved in the regulation of Nrf2 expression in breast epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3752913  PMID: 21638050
Mammary epithelial cells; miR-28; Nrf2; Chemoprevention
5.  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)
6.  BTB Protein Keap1 Targets Antioxidant Transcription Factor Nrf2 for Ubiquitination by the Cullin 3-Roc1 Ligase 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(1):162-171.
The concentrations and functions of many eukaryotic proteins are regulated by the ubiquitin pathway, which consists of ubiquitin activation (E1), conjugation (E2), and ligation (E3). Cullins are a family of evolutionarily conserved proteins that assemble by far the largest family of E3 ligase complexes. Cullins, via a conserved C-terminal domain, bind with the RING finger protein Roc1 to recruit the catalytic function of E2. Via a distinct N-terminal domain, individual cullins bind to a protein motif present in multiple proteins to recruit specific substrates. Cullin 3 (Cul3), but not other cullins, binds directly with BTB domains to constitute a potentially large number of BTB-CUL3-ROC1 E3 ubiquitin ligases. Here we report that the human BTB-Kelch protein Keap1, a negative regulator of the antioxidative transcription factor Nrf2, binds to CUL3 and Nrf2 via its BTB and Kelch domains, respectively. The KEAP1-CUL3-ROC1 complex promoted NRF2 ubiquitination in vitro and knocking down Keap1 or CUL3 by short interfering RNA resulted in NRF2 protein accumulation in vivo. We suggest that Keap1 negatively regulates Nrf2 function in part by targeting Nrf2 for ubiquitination by the CUL3-ROC1 ligase and subsequent degradation by the proteasome. Blocking NRF2 degradation in cells expressing both KEAP1 and NRF2 by either inhibiting the proteasome activity or knocking down Cul3, resulted in NRF2 accumulation in the cytoplasm. These results may reconcile previously observed cytoplasmic sequestration of NRF2 by KEAP1 and suggest a possible regulatory step between KEAP1-NRF2 binding and NRF2 degradation.
PMCID: PMC538799  PMID: 15601839
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Activation of the Nrf2-ARE pathway by siRNA knockdown of Keap1 reduces oxidative stress and provides partial protection from MPTP-mediated neurotoxicity 
Neurotoxicology  2012;33(3):272-279.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that binds to the antioxidant response element, a cis-acting regulatory element that increases expression of detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant proteins. Kelch-like ECH associating protein 1 (Keap1) protein is a negative regulator of Nrf2. Previous work has shown that genetic overexpression of Nrf2 is protective in vitro and in vivo. To modulate the Nrf2-ARE system without overexpressing Nrf2, we used short interfering RNA (siRNA) directed against Keap1. Keap1 siRNA administration in primary astrocytes increased the levels of Nrf2-ARE driven genes and protected against oxidative stress. Moreover, Keap1 siRNA resulted in a persistent upregulation of the Nrf2-ARE pathway and protection against oxidative stress in primary astrocytes. Keap1 siRNA injected into the striatum was also modestly protective against MPTP-induced dopaminergic terminal damage. These data indicate that activation of endogenous intracellular levels of Nrf2 is sufficient to protect in models of oxidative stress and Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3521526  PMID: 22342405
10.  Antioxidant Sulforaphane and Sensitizer Trinitrobenzene Sulfonate Induce Carboxylesterase-1 Through a Novel Element Transactivated by Nuclear Factor-E2 Related Factor-2 
Biochemical pharmacology  2012;84(6):864-871.
Carboxylesterase-1 (CES1), the most versatile human carboxylesterase, plays critical roles in drug metabolism and lipid mobilization. This enzyme is highly induced by antioxidants and sensitizers in various cell lines. These compounds are known to activate nuclear factor-E2 related factor-2 (Nrf2) by reacting to kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1). The aims of this study were to determine whether antioxidant sulforaphane (SFN) and sensitizer trinitrobenzene sulfonate (TNBS) target Keap1 similarly and whether they use the same element for CES1 induction. Cells over-expressing Keap1 were treated with TNBS or SFN and the formation of disulfide bonds among Keap1 molecules were determined. SFN promoted intramolecular disulfide formation whereas TNBS promoted intermolecular disulfide formation of Keap1. Two elements, sensitizing/antioxidant response element (S/ARE) and ARE4, were identified to support Nrf2 in the regulated expression of CES1A1. Both elements were bound by Nrf2, however, the S/ARE element supported, whereas the ARE4 element repressed Nrf2 transactivation. The repression required higher amounts of Nrf2, suggesting that the transactivation through the S/ARE element dominates the trans-repression through the ARE4 element under normal antioxidative condition. These findings conclude that compounds, although triggering the Keap1-Nrf2 pathway, may differ in the mode of reacting with Keap1. These findings also conclude that both positive and negative Nrf2 elements exist even within the same gene, and such opposing mechanisms provide fine-tuning in transcriptional regulation by the Keap1-Nrf2 pathway. High levels of CES1 are linked to lipid retention. Excessive induction of CES1 by antioxidants and sensitizers likely provides a mechanism for potential detrimental effect on human health.
PMCID: PMC4096214  PMID: 22776248
Carboxylesterase; Keap1-Nrf2 pathway; negative and positive AREs; Keap1 reactivity; antioxidants; and skin sensitizers
11.  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
12.  Enhanced 4-Hydroxynonenal Resistance in KEAP1 Silenced Human Colon Cancer Cells 
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) is the transcription factor that regulates an array of antioxidant/detoxifying genes for cellular defense. The conformational changes of Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1), a cytosolic repressor protein of NRF2, by various stimuli result in NRF2 liberation and accumulation in the nucleus. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effect of KEAP1 knockdown on NRF2 target gene expression and its toxicological implication using human colon cancer cells. The stable KEAP1-knockdown HT29 cells exhibit elevated levels of NRF2 and its target gene expressions. In particular, the mRNA levels of aldo-keto reductases (AKR1C1, 1C2, 1C3, 1B1, and 1B10) were substantially increased in KEAP1 silenced HT29 cells. These differential AKRs expressions appear to contribute to protection against oxidative stress. The KEAP1-knockdown cells were relatively more resistant to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE) compared to the control cells. Accordantly, we observed accumulation of 4HNE protein adducts in H2O2- or 4HNE-treated control cells, whereas KEAP1-knockdown cells did not increase adduct formation. The treatment of KEAP1-silenced cells with AKR1C inhibitor flufenamic acid increased 4HNE-induced cellular toxicity and protein adduct formation. Taken together, these results indicate that AKRs, which are NRF2-dependent highly inducible gene clusters, play a role in NRF2-mediated cytoprotection against lipid peroxide toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3674683  PMID: 23766854
13.  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
14.  Conditioned Media Downregulates Nuclear Expression of Nrf2 
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that activates several antioxidant and cytoprotective genes in response to oxidative stress. The role of Nrf2 activators and the intracellular regulation of Nrf2 have been studied extensively. In comparison, little is known about the self-regulation of Nrf2 due to experimental techniques commonly used to synchronize cellular signaling. Here we report that endogenous Nrf2 was downregulated in the nucleus of HeLa and MDA-MB-231 cells serum starved for 24hrs. Nrf2 expression was rescued by the addition of unconditioned media irrespective of its serum content. No concomitant change was observed in the expression of the primary inhibitor of Nrf2, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1). Nrf2 was upregulated by tert-butyl hydroquinone, although there was limited increase in Nrf2 in conditioned media-treated cells as compared to unconditioned media-treated cells. Decreasing the fraction of conditioned media in culture resulted in a dose-dependent increase in Nrf2 protein level. Taken together, our data suggests the existence of a complex self-regulatory mechanism for endogenous Nrf2 signaling.
PMCID: PMC3780449  PMID: 24073021
Nrf2; Keap1; conditioned media; starvation; serum-free media; cell synchronization
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Characterization of the cancer chemopreventive NRF2-dependent gene battery in human keratinocytes: demonstration that the KEAP1–NRF2 pathway, and not the BACH1–NRF2 pathway, controls cytoprotection against electrophiles as well as redox-cycling compounds 
Carcinogenesis  2009;30(9):1571-1580.
To better understand the role of transcription factor NF-E2-related factor (NRF) 2 in the human and its contribution to cancer chemoprevention, we have knocked down its negative regulators, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1) and broad-complex, tramtrack and bric à brac and cap'n'collar homology 1 (BACH1), in HaCaT keratinocytes. Whole-genome microarray revealed that knockdown of KEAP1 resulted in 23 messenger RNAs (mRNAs) being up-regulated ≥2.0-fold. mRNA for aldo-keto reductase (AKR) 1B10, AKR1C1, AKR1C2 and AKR1C3 were induced to the greatest extent, showing increases of between 12- and 16-fold, whereas mRNA for glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic and modifier subunits, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase-1 and haem oxygenase-1 (HMOX1) were induced between 2.0- and 4.8-fold. Knockdown of BACH1 increased HMOX1 135-fold but induced the other genes examined to a maximum of only 2.7-fold. Activation of NRF2, by KEAP1 knockdown, caused a 75% increase in the amount of glutathione in HaCaT cells and a 1.4- to 1.6-fold increase in their resistance to the electrophiles acrolein, chlorambucil and cumene hydroperoxide (CuOOH), as well as the redox-cycling agent menadione. Inhibition of glutathione synthesis during KEAP1 knockdown, by treatment with buthionine sulfoximine, abrogated resistance to acrolein, chlorambucil and CuOOH, but not to menadione. In contrast, knockdown of BACH1 did not increase glutathione levels or resistance to xenobiotics. Knockdown of NRF2 in HaCaT cells decreased glutathione to ∼80% of normal homeostatic levels and similarly reduced their tolerance of electrophiles. Thus, the KEAP1–NRF2 pathway determines resistance to electrophiles and redox-cycling compounds in human keratinocytes through glutathione-dependent and glutathione-independent mechanisms. This study also shows that AKR1B10, AKR1C1 and AKR1C2 proteins have potential utility as biomarkers for NRF2 activation in the human.
PMCID: PMC3656619  PMID: 19608619
19.  The Keap1-Nrf2 System Prevents Onset of Diabetes Mellitus 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(15):2996-3010.
Transcription factor Nrf2 (NF-E2-related factor 2) regulates a broad cytoprotective response to environmental stresses. Keap1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1) is an adaptor protein for cullin3-based ubiquitin E3 ligase and negatively regulates Nrf2. Whereas the Keap1-Nrf2 system plays important roles in oxidative stress response and metabolism, the roles Nrf2 plays in the prevention of diabetes mellitus remain elusive. Here we show that genetic activation of Nrf2 signaling by Keap1 gene hypomorphic knockdown (Keap1flox/−) markedly suppresses the onset of diabetes. When Keap1flox/− mice were crossed with diabetic db/db mice, blood glucose levels became lower through improvement of both insulin secretion and insulin resistance. Keap1flox/− also prevented high-calorie-diet-induced diabetes. Oral administration of the Nrf2 inducer CDDO-Im {oleanolic acid 1-[2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl] imidazole} also attenuated diabetes in db/db mice. Nrf2 induction altered antioxidant-, energy consumption-, and gluconeogenesis-related gene expression in metabolic tissues. Thus, the Keap1-Nrf2 system is a critical target for preventing the onset of diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC3719683  PMID: 23716596
20.  Long Isoforms of NRF1 Contribute to Arsenic-Induced Antioxidant Response in Human Keratinocytes 
Human exposure to inorganic arsenic (iAs), a potent oxidative stressor, causes various dermal disorders, including hyperkeratosis and skin cancer. Nuclear factor–erythroid 2–related factor 1 (NRF1, also called NFE2L1) plays a critical role in regulating the expression of many antioxidant response element (ARE)-dependent genes.
We investigated the role of NRF1 in arsenic-induced antioxidant response and cytotoxicity in human keratinocytes.
In cultured human keratinocyte HaCaT cells, inorganic arsenite (iAs3+) enhanced the protein accumulation of long isoforms (120–140 kDa) of NRF1 in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. These isoforms accumulated mainly in the nuclei of HaCaT cells. Selective deficiency of NRF1 by lentiviral short-hairpin RNAs in HaCaT cells [NRF1-knockdown (KD)] led to decreased expression of γ-glutamate cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC) and regulatory subunit (GCLM) and a reduced level of intracellular glutathione. In response to acute iAs3+ exposure, induction of some ARE-dependent genes, including NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), GCLC, and GCLM, was significantly attenuated in NRF1-KD cells. However, the iAs3-induced expression of heme oxygenase 1 (HMOX-1) was unaltered by silencing NRF1, suggesting that HMOX-1 is not regulated by NRF1. In addition, the lack of NRF1 in HaCaT cells did not disturb iAs3+-induced NRF2 accumulation but noticeably decreased Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1) levels under basal and iAs3+-exposed conditions, suggesting a potential interaction between NRF1 and KEAP1. Consistent with the critical role of NRF1 in the transcriptional regulation of some ARE-bearing genes, knockdown of NRF1 significantly increased iAs3+-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis.
Here, we demonstrate for the first time that long isoforms of NRF1 contribute to arsenic-induced antioxidant response in human keratinocytes and protect the cells from acute arsenic cytotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3018500  PMID: 20805060
apoptosis; arsenic; cytotoxicity; KEAP1; keratinocyte; NRF1; NRF2; oxidative stress
21.  Nitro-linoleic acid inhibits vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation via the Keap1/Nrf2 signaling pathway 
Nitroalkenes, the nitration products of unsaturated fatty acids formed via NO-dependent oxidative reactions, have been demonstrated to exert strong biological actions in endothelial cells and monocytes/macrophages; however, little is known about their effects on vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). The present study examined the role of nitro-linoleic acid (LNO2) in the regulation of VSMC proliferation. We observed that LNO2 inhibited VSMC proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, LNO2 induced growth arrest of VSMCs in the G1/S phase of the cell cycle with an upregulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27kip1. Furthermore, LNO2 triggered nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) nuclear translocation and activation of the antioxidant-responsive element-driven transcriptional activity via impairing Kelch-like ECH-associating protein 1 (Keap1)-mediated negative control of Nrf2 activity in VSMCs. LNO2 upregulated the expression of Nrf2 protein levels, but not mRNA levels, in VSMCs. A forced activation of Nrf2 led to an upregulation of p27kip1 and growth inhibition of VSMCs. In contrast, knock down of Nrf2 using an Nrf2 siRNA approach reversed the LNO2-induced upregulation of p27kip1 and inhibition of cellular proliferation in VSMCs. These studies provide the first evidence that nitroalkene LNO2 inhibits VSMC proliferation through activation of the Keap1/Nrf2 signaling pathway, suggesting an important role of nitroalkenes in vascular biology.
PMCID: PMC2170893  PMID: 17468336
nitroalkenes; nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2; Kelch-like ECH-associating protein 1
22.  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
23.  Identification of Novel microRNAs in Post-Transcriptional Control of Nrf2 Expression and Redox Homeostasis in Neuronal, SH-SY5Y Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51111.
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2/NFE2L2), a redox-sensitive transcription factor plays a critical role in adaptation to cellular stress and affords cellular defense by initiating transcription of antioxidative and detoxification genes. While a protein can be regulated at multiple levels, control of Nrf2 has been largely studied at post-translational regulation points by Keap1. Importantly, post-transcriptional/translational based regulation of Nrf2 is less understood and to date there are no reports on such mechanisms in neuronal systems. In this context, studies involving the role of microRNAs (miRs) which are normally considered as fine tuning regulators of protein production through translation repression and/or post-transcriptional alterations, are in place. In the current study, based on in-silico analysis followed by immunoblotting and real time analysis, we have identified and validated for the first time that human NFE2L2 could be targeted by miR153/miR27a/miR142-5p/miR144 in neuronal, SH-SY5Y cells. Co-transfection studies with individual miR mimics along with either WT 3′ UTR of human Nrf2 or mutated miRNA targeting seed sequence within Nrf2 3′ UTR, demonstrated that Nrf2 is a direct regulatory target of these miRs. In addition, ectopic expression of miR153/miR27a/miR142-5p/miR144 affected Nrf2 mRNA abundance and nucleo-cytoplasmic concentration of Nrf2 in a Keap1 independent manner resulting in inefficient transactivating ability of Nrf2. Furthermore, forced expression of miRs diminished GCLC and GSR expression resulting in alteration of Nrf2 dependent redox homeostasis. Finally, bioinformatics based miRNA-disease network analysis (MDN) along with extended computational network analysis of Nrf2 associated pathologic processes suggests that if in a particular cellular scenario where any of these miR153/miR27a/miR142-5p/miR144 either individually or as a group is altered, it could affect Nrf2 thus triggering and/or determining the fate of wide range of disease outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3517581  PMID: 23236440
24.  Nrf2 enhances resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, the dark side of Nrf2 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(6):1235-1243.
Drug resistance during chemotherapy is the major obstacle to the successful treatment of many cancers. Here, we report that inhibition of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) may be a promising strategy to combat chemoresistance. Nrf2 is a critical transcription factor regulating a cellular protective response that defends cells against toxic insults from a broad spectrum of chemicals. Under normal conditions, the low constitutive amount of Nrf2 protein is maintained by the Kelch-like ECH-associated protein1 (Keap1)-mediated ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation system. Upon activation, this Keap1-dependent Nrf2 degradation mechanism is quickly inactivated, resulting in accumulation and activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)-dependent cytoprotective genes. Since its discovery, Nrf2 has been viewed as a ‘good’ transcription factor that protects us from many diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the dark side of Nrf2: stable overexpression of Nrf2 resulted in enhanced resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents including cisplatin, doxorubicin and etoposide. Inversely, downregulation of the Nrf2-dependent response by overexpression of Keap1 or transient transfection of Nrf2–small interfering RNA (siRNA) rendered cancer cells more susceptible to these drugs. Upregulation of Nrf2 by the small chemical tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) also enhanced the resistance of cancer cells, indicating the feasibility of using small chemical inhibitors of Nrf2 as adjuvants to chemotherapy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the strategy of using Nrf2 inhibitors to increase efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents is not limited to certain cancer types or anticancer drugs and thus can be applied during the course of chemotherapy to treat many cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3312612  PMID: 18413364
25.  The C-Terminal Domain of Nrf1 Negatively Regulates the Full-Length CNC-bZIP Factor and Its Shorter Isoform LCR-F1/Nrf1β; Both Are Also Inhibited by the Small Dominant-Negative Nrf1γ/δ Isoforms that Down-Regulate ARE-Battery Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109159.
The C-terminal domain (CTD, aa 686–741) of nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45-related factor 1 (Nrf1) shares 53% amino acid sequence identity with the equivalent Neh3 domain of Nrf2, a homologous transcription factor. The Neh3 positively regulates Nrf2, but whether the Neh3-like (Neh3L) CTD of Nrf1 has a similar role in regulating Nrf1-target gene expression is unknown. Herein, we report that CTD negatively regulates the full-length Nrf1 (i.e. 120-kDa glycoprotein and 95-kDa deglycoprotein) and its shorter isoform LCR-F1/Nrf1β (55-kDa). Attachment of its CTD-adjoining 112-aa to the C-terminus of Nrf2 yields the chimaeric Nrf2-C112Nrf1 factor with a markedly decreased activity. Live-cell imaging of GFP-CTD reveals that the extra-nuclear portion of the fusion protein is allowed to associate with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane through the amphipathic Neh3L region of Nrf1 and its basic c-tail. Thus removal of either the entire CTD or the essential Neh3L portion within CTD from Nrf1, LCR-F1/Nrf1β and Nrf2-C112Nrf1, results in an increase in their transcriptional ability to regulate antioxidant response element (ARE)-driven reporter genes. Further examinations unravel that two smaller isoforms, 36-kDa Nrf1γ and 25-kDa Nrf1δ, act as dominant-negative inhibitors to compete against Nrf1, LCR-F1/Nrf1β and Nrf2. Relative to Nrf1, LCR-F1/Nrf1β is a weak activator, that is positively regulated by its Asn/Ser/Thr-rich (NST) domain and acidic domain 2 (AD2). Like AD1 of Nrf1, both AD2 and NST domain of LCR-F1/Nrf1β fused within two different chimaeric contexts to yield Gal4D:Nrf1β607 and Nrf1β:C270Nrf2, positively regulate their transactivation activity of cognate Gal4- and Nrf2-target reporter genes. More importantly, differential expression of endogenous ARE-battery genes is attributable to up-regulation by Nrf1 and LCR-F1/Nrf1β and down-regulation by Nrf1γ and Nrf1δ.
PMCID: PMC4188613  PMID: 25290918

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