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1.  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
2.  Identification and Functional Studies of a New Nrf2 Partner IQGAP1: A Critical Role in the Stability and Transactivation of Nrf2 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(2):89-101.
Aims: Nuclear factor-erythroid-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a critical transcriptional factor that is used in regulating cellular defense against oxidative stress. This study is aimed at investigating new interacting protein partners of Nrf2 using One-strep tag pull-down coupled with LTQ Orbitrap LC/MS/MS, and at examining the impact on Nr2 signaling by the newly identified IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1). Results: Using the One-strep tag pull-down and LTQ Orbitrap LC/MS/MS, we identified IQGAP1 as a new Nrf2 interacting partner. Direct interactions between IQGAP1 and Nrf2 proteins were verified using in vitro glutathione S-transferase (GST) pull-down, transcription/translation assays, and in vivo utilizing Nrf2 overexpressing cells. Coexpression of Dsredmono-IQGAP1 and eGFP-Nrf2 increased the stability of eGFP-Nrf2 and enhanced the expression of Nrf2-target gene heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). To confirm the functional role of IQGAP1 on Nrf2, knock-downed IQGAP1 using siIQGAP1 attenuated the expression of endogenous Nrf2, HO-1 proteins, and Nrf2-target genes GSTpi, GCLC, and NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO-1). Furthermore, the stability of Nrf2 was dramatically decreased in IQGAP1-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells. Since IQGAP1 signaling could be mediated by calcium, treating the cells with calcium showed the translocation of IQGAP1/Nrf2 complex into the nucleus, suggesting that IQGAP1 may play a critical role in Nrf2 stability. Interestingly, consistent with calcium signaling for IQGAP1, treating the cells with calcium functionally enhanced Nrf2-mediated antioxidant responsive element-transcription activity and enhanced the expression of the endogenous Nrf2-target gene HO-1. Innovation: In the aggregate, our current study identifies and functionally characterizes a new Nrf2 partner protein IQGAP1, which may contribute to Nrf2's regulation of antioxidant enzymes such as HO-1. Conclusion: IQGAP1 may play a critical role in the stability and transactivation of Nrf2. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 89–101.
PMCID: PMC3689176  PMID: 22793650
3.  The role of Nrf2 signaling in the regulation of antioxidants and detoxifying enzymes after traumatic brain injury in rats and mice 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2010;31(11):1421-1430.
To determine whether Nrf2 signaling pathway activation could attenuate oxidative stress and neuronal damage following traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury was performed in Sprague-Dawley rats and Nrf2-knockout or control mice. Sulforaphane (SFN), a potent Nrf2 activator, was used to activate Nrf2. Oxidative stress, lesion volume, neuron degeneration, and neurologic dysfunction were determined using biochemical, histopathological and neuroethologic approaches. Protein and mRNA levels of Nrf2 and the antioxidant enzymes heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H:quinine oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) were assessed using Western blot analysis and RT-PCR.
Activation of Nrf2 by SFN( 5 mg/kg, ip) induced the nuclear translocation and activation of Nrf2, which resulted in an up-regulation of Nrf2-dependent antioxidant enzymes and a reduction of oxidative damage after TBI. In accordance with these biochemical changes, SFN also significantly reduced neuronal death, contusion volume, and neurological dysfunction after TBI. Furthermore, Nrf2-knockout mice showed more severe oxidative stress and neurologic deficits after TBI and did not benefit from the effects of SFN.
Nrf2 plays a pivotal role in cell defenses against the oxidative stress of TBI. In addition, pharmacological activation of the Nrf2 signaling pathway by small molecule inducers such as SFN attenuated oxidative stress and neuronal damage following TBI.
PMCID: PMC4003325  PMID: 20953205
nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2; sulforaphane; traumatic brain injury; oxidative stress; heme oxygenase 1; NAD(P)H:quinine oxidoreductase 1; neurological dysfunction
4.  Nrf2-Dependent Induction of NQO1 in Mouse Aortic Endothelial Cells Overexpressing Catalase 
Free radical biology & medicine  2011;51(1):97-106.
Overexpression of catalase has been shown to accelerate benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) detoxification in mouse aortic endothelial cells (MAECs ). NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase1 (NQO1) is an enzyme that catalyzes BaP-quinone detoxification. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) are transcription factors that control NQO1 expression. Here, we investigated the effect of catalase overexpression on NQO1, Nrf2 and AhR expressions. The levels of NQO1 mRNA and protein were comparable in MAECs isolated from wild-type and transgenic mice that overexpress human catalase (hCatTg). BaP treatment increased NQO1 mRNA and protein levels in both groups, with a significantly greater induction in hCatTg MAECs than in wild-type cells. BaP-induced NQO1 promoter activity was dramatically higher in hCatTg MAECs than in wild-type cells. Our data also showed that the basal level of AhR and the BaP-induced level of Nrf2 were significantly higher in hCatTg MAECs than in wild-type cells. Inhibition of specificity protein-1 (Sp1) binding to the AhR promoter region by mithramycin A reversed the enhanced effect of catalase overexpression on AhR expression. Knockdown of AhR by RNA interference diminished BaP-induced expression of Nrf2 and NQO1. Knockdown of Nrf2 significantly decreased NQO1 mRNA and protein levels in cells with or without BaP treatment. NQO1 promoter activity was abrogated by mutation of the Nrf2-binding site in this promoter. In contrast, mutation of the AhR-binding site in NQO1 promoter did not affect the promoter activity. These results suggest that catalase overexpression upregulates BaP-induced NQO1 expression via enhancing the Sp1-AhR-Nrf2 signaling cascade.
PMCID: PMC3109219  PMID: 21569840
endothelial cell; catalase; NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase1; aryl hydrocarbon receptor; nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor-2
5.  Estrogen Receptor and PI3K/Akt Signaling Pathway Involvement in S-(-)Equol-Induced Activation of Nrf2/ARE in Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79075.
S-(-)equol, a natural product of the isoflavone daidzein, has been reported to offer cytoprotective effects with respect to the cardiovascular system, but how this occurs is unclear. Interestingly, S-(-)equol is produced by the human gut, suggesting a role in physiological processes. We report that treatment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and EA.hy926 cells with S-(-)equol induces ARE-luciferase reporter gene activity that is dose and time dependent. S-(-)equol (10–250 nM) increases nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) as well as gene products of Nrf2 target genes heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H (nicotinamide-adenine-dinucleotide-phosphate) quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). Endothelial cells transfected with an HA-Nrf2 expression plasmid had elevated HA-Nrf2, HO-1, and NQO1 in response to S-(-)equol exposure. S-(-)equol treatment affected Nrf2 mRNA only slightly but significantly increased HO-1 and NQO1 mRNA. The pretreatment of cells with specific ER inhibitors or PI3K/Akt (ICI182,780 and LY294002) increased Nrf2, HO-1, and NQO1 protein, impaired nuclear translocation of HA-Nrf2, and decreased ARE-luciferase activity. Identical experiments were conducted with daidzein, which had effects similar to S-(-)equol. In addition, DPN treatment (an ERβ agonist) induced the ARE-luciferase reporter gene, promoting Nrf2 nuclear translocation. Cell pretreatment with an ERβ antagonist (PHTPP) impaired S-(-)equol-induced Nrf2 activation. Pre-incubation of cells followed by co-treatment with S-(-)equol significantly improved cell survival in response to H2O2 or tBHP and reduced apoptotic and TUNEL-positively-stained cells. Notably, the ability of S-(-)equol to protect against H2O2-induced cell apoptosis was attenuated in cells transfected with an siRNA against Nrf2. Thus, beneficial effects of S-(-)equol with respect to cytoprotective antioxidant gene activation may represent a novel strategy to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3833998  PMID: 24260155
6.  CDDO-Im Protects from Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity Through Induction of Nrf2-Dependent Genes 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2009;236(1):109-114.
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.
PMCID: PMC2680225  PMID: 19371629
Nrf2; CDDO-Im; oxidative stress; acetaminophen; liver
7.  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
8.  Keap1 Cysteine 288 as a Potential Target for Diallyl Trisulfide-Induced Nrf2 Activation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85984.
Diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide, and daillyl trisulfide (DATS) are major volatile components of garlic oil. In this study, we assessed their relative potency in inducing antioxidant enzyme expression. Among the three organosulfur compounds, DATS was found to be most potent in inducing heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase-1 (NQO1) in human gastric epithelial (AGS) cells. Furthermore, DATS administration by gavage increased the expression of HO-1 and NQO1 in C57BL/6 mouse stomach. Treatment with DATS increased the accumulation of nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) in the nucleus of cultured AGS cells and in mouse stomach in vivo. The DATS-induced expression of HO-1 and NQO1 was abrogated in the cells transiently transfected with Nrf2-siRNA or in the embryonic fibroblasts from Nrf2-null mice, indicating that Nrf2 is a key mediator of the cytoprotective effects of DATS. Pretreatment of AGS cells with N-acetylcysteine or dithiothreitol attenuated DATS-induced nuclear localization of Nrf2 and the expression of HO-1 and NQO1. Cysteine-151, -273 and -288 of Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1), a cytosolic repressor of Nrf2, have been considered to act as a redox sensor and play a role in Nrf2 activation. To determine whether DATS could inactivate Keap1 through thiol modification, we established cell lines constitutively expressing wild type-Keap1 or three different mutant constructs in which cysteine-151, -273, or -288 of Keap1 was replaced with serine by retroviral gene transfer. DATS failed to activate Nrf2, and to induce expression of HO-1 and NQO1 only in Keap1-C288S mutant cells. LC-ESI-MS/MS analysis of recombinant Keap1 treated with DATS revealed that the peptide fragment containing Cys288 gained a molecular mass of 72.1 Da equivalent to the molecular weight of mono-allyl mono-sulfide. Taken together, these findings suggest that DATS may directly interact with the Cys288 residue of Keap1, which partly accounts for its ability to induce Nrf2 activation and upregulate defensive gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3904845  PMID: 24489685
9.  Piper betle induces phase I & II genes through Nrf2/ARE signaling pathway in mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from wild type and Nrf2 knockout cells 
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45 related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a primary transcription factor, protecting cells from oxidative stress by regulating a number of antioxidants and phase II detoxifying enzymes. Dietary components such as sulforaphane in broccoli and quercetin in onions have been shown to be inducers of Nrf2. Piper betle (PB) grows well in tropical climate and the leaves are used in a number of traditional remedies for the treatment of stomach ailments and infections among Asians. The aim of this study was to elucidate the effect of Piper betle (PB) leaves extract in Nrf2 signaling pathway by using 2 types of cells; mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) derived from wild-type (WT) and Nrf2 knockout (N0) mice.
WT and N0 cells were treated with 5 and 10 μg/ml of PB for 10 and 12-h for the determination of nuclear translocation of Nrf2 protein. Luciferase reporter gene activity was performed to evaluate the antioxidant response element (ARE)-induction by PB. Real-time PCR and Western blot were conducted on both WT and N0 cells after PB treatment for the determination of antioxidant enzymes [superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and heme-oxygenase (HO-1)], phase I oxidoreductase enzymes [NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1)] and phase II detoxifying enzyme [glutathione S-transferase (GST)].
Nuclear translocation of Nrf2 by PB in WT cells was better after 10 h incubation compared to 12 h. Real time PCR and Western blot analysis showed increased expressions of Nrf2, NQO1 and GSTA1 genes with corresponding increases in glutathione, NQO1 and HO-1 proteins in WT cells. Reporter gene ARE was stimulated by PB as shown by ARE/luciferase assay. Interestingly, PB induced SOD1 gene and protein expressions in N0 cells but not in WT cells.
The results of this study confirmed that PB activated Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway which subsequently induced some phase I oxidoreductase, phase II detoxifying and antioxidant genes expression via ARE reporter gene involved in the Nrf2 pathway with the exception of SOD1 which may not be dependent on this pathway.
PMCID: PMC3936848  PMID: 24559113
Nrf2; PB; ARE; NQO1; HO-1; GST. SOD1
10.  An essential role of Nrf2 in American ginseng-mediated anti-oxidative actions in cardiomyocytes 
Journal of ethnopharmacology  2010;130(2):222-230.
Aim of the study
Ginseng has been used as a folk medicine for thousands of years in Asia, and has become a popular herbal medicine world-wide. Recent studies have revealed that ginseng, including American ginseng, exerts antioxidant effects in the cardiovascular system; however, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Thus, we investigated role of Nrf2, a master transcription factor of endogenous anti-oxidative defense systems, in the regulation of American ginseng-mediated anti-oxidative actions in cardiomyocytes.
Materials and methods
A standardized crude extract of American ginseng was supplied by the National Research Council of Canada, Institute for National Measurement Standards. H9C2 cells, a rat cardiomyocyte cell line, were exposed to angiotensin II (Ang II) or tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) to induce oxidative stress that was examined by measuring formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Oxidative stress-induced cell death was induced by exogenous addition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Proteins were measured by Western blot and mRNA expression was determined by quantitative real time PCR. Nrf2-driven transcriptional activity was assessed by antioxidant response element (ARE)-luciferase reporter assay. Direct Nrf2 binding to its target gene promoters was determined by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Adenoviral overexpression of Nrf2 shRNA was utilized to knock down Nrf2 in H9C2 cells. Immunochemical staining was applied for Nrf2 expression in the heart.
American ginseng induced dramatic increases in Nrf2 protein expression, Nrf2 nuclear translocation, Nrf2 transcriptional activity, direct Nrf2 binding to its target gene promoters, and expression of a group of anti-oxidative genes driven by Nrf2 in H9C2 cells. In addition, American ginseng inhibited Ang II- or TNFα-induced free radical formation and H2O2-induced cell death in H9C2 cells over-expressed with control shRNA but not in the cells over-expressed with Nrf2 shRNA. Finally, oral administration of American ginseng markedly increased Nrf2 activity in murine hearts.
These results demonstrate that American ginseng suppresses oxidative stress and oxidative stress-induced cell death in cardiomyocytes through activating the Nrf2 pathway, thereby providing cardioprotection against pathological cardiac remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3920583  PMID: 20447451
Panax quinquefolius; American ginseng; Nrf2; Oxidative stress; Cardiomyocytes; Cell death
11.  Seaweed extracts and unsaturated fatty acid constituents from the green alga Ulva lactuca as activators of the cytoprotective Nrf2–ARE pathway 
Increased amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in many pathological conditions, including cancer. The major machinery that the cell employs to neutralize excess ROS is through the activation of the antioxidant-response element (ARE) that controls the activation of many phase II detoxification enzymes. The transcription factor that recognizes the ARE, Nrf2, can be activated by a variety of small molecules, most of which contain an α,β-unsaturated carbonyl system. In the pursuit of chemopreventive agents from marine organisms, we built, fractionated, and screened a library of 30 field-collected eukaryotic algae from Florida. An edible green alga, Ulva lactuca, yielded multiple active fractions by ARE–luciferase reporter assay. We isolated three monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) derivatives as active components, including a new keto-type C18 fatty acid (1), the corresponding shorter chain C16 acid (2), and an amide derivative (3) of the C18 acid. Their chemical structures were elucidated by NMR and mass spectrometry. All three contain the conjugated enone motif between C7 and C9, which is thought to be responsible for the ARE activity. Subsequent biological studies focused on 1, the most active and abundant ARE activator isolated. C18 acid 1 induced the expression of ARE-regulated cytoprotective genes, including NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, heme oxygenase 1, thioredoxin reductase 1, both subunits of the glutamate–cysteine ligase (catalytic subunit and modifier subunit), and the cystine/glutamate exchange transporter, in IMR-32 human neuroblastoma cells. Its cellular activity requires the presence of Nrf2 and PI3K function, based on RNA interference and pharmacological inhibitor studies, respectively. Treatment with 1 led only to Nrf2 activation, and not the increase in production of NRF2 mRNA. To test its ARE activity and cytoprotective potential in vivo, we treated mice with a single dose of a U. lactuca fraction that was enriched with 1, which showed ARE-activating effects similar to those observed in vitro. This could be owing to this fraction's ability to stabilize Nrf2 through inhibition of Keap1-mediated Nrf2 ubiquitination and the subsequent accumulation and nuclear translocation of Nrf2. The induction of many ARE-driven antioxidant genes in vivo and most prominently in the heart agreed with the commonly recognized cardioprotective properties of MUFAs. A significant increase in Nqo1 transcript levels was also found in other mouse tissues such as the brain, lung, and stomach. Collectively, this study provides new insight into why consumption of dietary seaweed may have health benefits, and the identified compounds add to the list of chemopreventive dietary unsaturated fatty acids.
PMCID: PMC3663146  PMID: 23291594
Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species; Nrf2; Keap1; Antioxidant-response element; Antioxidants; Edible seaweeds; Cytoprotective enzymes; NQO1; Ulva lactuca; Monounsaturated fatty acids; Fatty acid amides; Glutathione; Free radicals
12.  The Protective Role of Nrf2 in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Nephropathy 
Diabetes  2010;59(4):850-860.
Diabetic nephropathy is one of the major causes of renal failure, which is accompanied by the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Nrf2 is the primary transcription factor that controls the antioxidant response essential for maintaining cellular redox homeostasis. Here, we report our findings demonstrating a protective role of Nrf2 against diabetic nephropathy.
We explore the protective role of Nrf2 against diabetic nephropathy using human kidney biopsy tissues from diabetic nephropathy patients, a streptozotocin-induced diabetic nephropathy model in Nrf2−/− mice, and cultured human mesangial cells.
The glomeruli of human diabetic nephropathy patients were under oxidative stress and had elevated Nrf2 levels. In the animal study, Nrf2 was demonstrated to be crucial in ameliorating streptozotocin-induced renal damage. This is evident by Nrf2−/− mice having higher ROS production and suffering from greater oxidative DNA damage and renal injury compared with Nrf2+/+ mice. Mechanistic studies in both in vivo and in vitro systems showed that the Nrf2-mediated protection against diabetic nephropathy is, at least, partially through inhibition of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and reduction of extracellular matrix production. In human renal mesangial cells, high glucose induced ROS production and activated expression of Nrf2 and its downstream genes. Furthermore, activation or overexpression of Nrf2 inhibited the promoter activity of TGF-β1 in a dose-dependent manner, whereas knockdown of Nrf2 by siRNA enhanced TGF-β1 transcription and fibronectin production.
This work clearly indicates a protective role of Nrf2 in diabetic nephropathy, suggesting that dietary or therapeutic activation of Nrf2 could be used as a strategy to prevent or slow down the progression of diabetic nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC2844833  PMID: 20103708
13.  De-Differentiation Confers Multidrug Resistance Via Noncanonical PERK-Nrf2 Signaling 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(9):e1001945.
Upregulation of PERK-Nrf2 signaling is a key mechanism by which de-differentiated cancer cells gain multi-drug resistance.
Malignant carcinomas that recur following therapy are typically de-differentiated and multidrug resistant (MDR). De-differentiated cancer cells acquire MDR by up-regulating reactive oxygen species (ROS)–scavenging enzymes and drug efflux pumps, but how these genes are up-regulated in response to de-differentiation is not known. Here, we examine this question by using global transcriptional profiling to identify ROS-induced genes that are already up-regulated in de-differentiated cells, even in the absence of oxidative damage. Using this approach, we found that the Nrf2 transcription factor, which is the master regulator of cellular responses to oxidative stress, is preactivated in de-differentiated cells. In de-differentiated cells, Nrf2 is not activated by oxidation but rather through a noncanonical mechanism involving its phosphorylation by the ER membrane kinase PERK. In contrast, differentiated cells require oxidative damage to activate Nrf2. Constitutive PERK-Nrf2 signaling protects de-differentiated cells from chemotherapy by reducing ROS levels and increasing drug efflux. These findings are validated in therapy-resistant basal breast cancer cell lines and animal models, where inhibition of the PERK-Nrf2 signaling axis reversed the MDR of de-differentiated cancer cells. Additionally, analysis of patient tumor datasets showed that a PERK pathway signature correlates strongly with chemotherapy resistance, tumor grade, and overall survival. Collectively, these results indicate that de-differentiated cells up-regulate MDR genes via PERK-Nrf2 signaling and suggest that targeting this pathway could sensitize drug-resistant cells to chemotherapy.
Author Summary
The development of multidrug resistance is the primary obstacle to treating cancers. High-grade tumors that are less differentiated typically respond poorly to therapy and carry a much worse prognosis than well-differentiated low-grade tumors. Therapy-resistant cancer cells often overexpress antioxidants or efflux proteins that pump drugs out of the cell, but how the differentiation state of cancer cells influences these resistance mechanisms is not well understood. Here we used genome-scale approaches and found that the PERK kinase and its downstream target, Nrf2—a master transcriptional regulator of the cellular antioxidant response—are key mediators of therapy resistance in poorly differentiated breast cancer cells. We show that Nrf2 is activated when cancer cells de-differentiate and that this activation requires PERK. We further show that blocking PERK-Nrf2 signaling with a small-molecule inhibitor sensitizes drug-resistant cancer cells to chemotherapy. Our results identify a novel role for PERK-Nrf2 signaling in multidrug resistance and suggest that targeting this pathway could improve the responsiveness of otherwise resistant tumors to chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4159113  PMID: 25203443
14.  MCRS2 represses the transactivation activities of Nrf1 
BMC Cell Biology  2009;10:9.
Nrf1 [p45 nuclear factor-erythroid 2 (p45 NF-E2)-related factor 1], a member of the CNC-bZIP (CNC basic region leucine zipper) family, is known to be a transcriptional activator by dimerization with distinct partners, such as Maf, FosB, c-Jun, JunD, etc. The transcriptional roles of CNC-bZIP family are demonstrated to be involved in globin gene expression as well as the antioxidant response. For example, CNC-bZIP factors can regulate the expression of detoxification proteins through AREs, such as expression of human gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetases (GCS), glutathione S-transferases (GST), UDP-glucuronosyl transferase (UDP-GT), NADP (H) quinone oxidoreductase (NQOs), etc. To further explore other factor(s) in cells related to the function of Nrf1, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screening assay to identify any Nrf1-interacting proteins. In this study, we isolated a cDNA encoding residues 126–475 of MCRS2 from the HeLa cell cDNA library. Some functions of MCRS1 and its splice variant-MSP58 and MCRS2 have been previously identified, such as transforming, nucleolar sequestration, ribosomal gene regulation, telomerase inhibition activities, etc. Here, we demonstrated MCRS2 can function as a repressor on the Nrf1-mediated transactivation using both in vitro and in vivo systems.
To find other proteins interacting with the CNC bZIP domain of Nrf1, the CNC-bZIP region of Nrf1 was used as a bait in a yeast two-hybrid screening assay. MCRS2, a splicing variant of p78/MCRS1, was isolated as the Nrf1-interacting partner from the screenings. The interaction between Nrf1 and MCRS2 was confirmed in vitro by GST pull-down assays and in vivo by co-immunoprecipitation. Further, the Nrf1-MCRS2 interaction domains were mapped to the residues 354–447 of Nrf1 as well as the residues 314–475 of MCRS2 respectively, by yeast two-hybrid and GST pull-down assays. By immunofluorescence, MCRS2-FLAG was shown to colocalize with HA-Nrf1 in the nucleus and didn't result in the redistribution of Nrf1. This suggested the existence of Nrf1-MCRS2 complex in vivo. To further confirm the biological function, a reporter driven by CNC-bZIP protein binding sites was also shown to be repressed by MCRS2 in a transient transfection assay. An artificial reporter gene activated by LexA-Nrf1 was also specifically repressed by MCRS2.
From the results, we showed MCRS2, a new Nrf1-interacting protein, has a repression effect on Nrf1-mediated transcriptional activation. This was the first ever identified repressor protein related to Nrf1 transactivation.
PMCID: PMC2644286  PMID: 19187526
Toxicology letters  2008;185(3):180-186.
Naturally occurring coumarins possess anti-carcinogenic activities in part by inducing carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes glutathione S-transferase (GST) and/or NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1). Our goal was to determine whether citrus coumarins induce hepatic GST and/or NQO1 via activation of Nrf2 and the antioxidant response element. First, HepG2 cells stably transfected with the ARE and a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter were treated with increasing concentrations of coumarins and compared to positive controls. tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and oltipraz increased GFP fluorescence, as did coumarin, limettin, auraptene, imperatorin, and 7,8-benzoflavone, suggesting that they activate the ARE, whereas isopimpinellin did not increase GFP fluorescence. Next, the effects of orally-administered coumarins and oltipraz on hepatic GST and NQO1 activities were compared in Nrf2 knockout mice or Nrf2 heterozygous mice exhibiting the wild-type phenotype. Oltipraz, auraptene, imperatorin, isopimpinellin, and auraptene all significantly increased liver cytosolic GST activities in Nrf2 heterozygous mice. This effect was abrogated in Nrf2(−/−) mice dosed with oltipraz, attenuated in mice Nrf2(−/−) mice treated with auraptene and imperatorin, and still significant in Nrf2(−/−) mice treated with isopimpinellin. Of these compounds, only isopimpinellin significantly increased liver cytosolic NQO1 activities, and this effect was not attenuated in Nrf2(−/−) mice. These results strongly suggest that imperatorin and auraptene induce murine liver cytosolic GST activities via the Nrf2/ARE mechanism. Although structurally similar, isopimpinellin did not appear to activate HepG2-ARE-GFP and the Nrf2 knockout mouse study suggests that isopimpinellin may induce GST and NQO1 via additional mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2676710  PMID: 19150646
Coumarins; Antioxidant Response Element; Nrf2; GST; Chemoprevention; Natural Products
16.  Protective effects of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 on whole body heat stress-induced oxidative damage in the mouse testis 
Whole body heat stress had detrimental effect on male reproductive function. It's known that the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activates expression of cytoprotective genes to enable cell adaptation to protect against oxidative stress. However, it’s still unclear about the exactly effects of Nrf2 on the testis. Here, we investigate the protective effect of Nrf2 on whole body heat stress-induced oxidative damage in mouse testis.
Male mice were exposed to the elevated ambient temperature (42°C) daily for 2 h. During the period of twelve consecutive days, mice were sacrificed on days 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 immediately following heat exposure. Testes weight, enzymatic antioxidant activities and concentrations of malondialdehyde (MDA) and glutathione (GSH) in the testes were determined and immunohistochemical detection of Nrf2 protein and mRNA expression of Nrf2-regulated genes were analyzed to assess the status of Nrf2-antioxidant system.
Heat-exposed mice presented significant increases in rectal, scrotal surface and body surface temperature. The concentrations of cortisol and testosterone in serum fluctuated with the number of exposed days. There were significant decrease in testes weight and relative testes weight on day 12 compared with those on other days, but significant increases in catalase (CAT) activity on day 1 and GSH level on day 4 compared with control group. The activities of total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD) and copper-zinc SOD (CuZn-SOD) increased significantly on days 8 and 12. Moreover, prominent nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 protein was observed in Leydig cells on day 2, accompanying with up-regulated mRNA levels of Nrf2-regulated genes such as Nrf2, heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1), γ-Glutamylcysteine synthetase (GCLC) and NAD (P) H: quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1)) in heat-treated groups.
These results suggest that Nrf2 displayed nuclear accumulation and protective activity in the process of heat treated-induced oxidative stress in mouse testes, indicating that Nrf2 might be a potential target for new drugs designed to protect germ cell and Leydig cell from oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3610102  PMID: 23514035
Whole body heat stress; Nrf2; Oxidative stress; Germ cell; Leydig cell; Mice
17.  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
18.  NRF2 plays a protective role in diabetic retinopathy in mice 
Diabetologia  2013;57(1):204-213.
Although much is known about the pathophysiological processes contributing to diabetic retinopathy (DR), the role of protective pathways has received less attention. The transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (also known as NFE2L2 or NRF2) is an important regulator of oxidative stress and also has anti-inflammatory effects. The objective of this study was to explore the potential role of NRF2 as a protective mechanism in DR.
Retinal expression of NRF2 was investigated in human donor and mouse eyes by immunohistochemistry. The effect of NRF2 modulation on oxidative stress was studied in the human Müller cell line MIO-M1. Non-diabetic and streptozotocin-induced diabetic wild-type and Nrf2 knockout mice were evaluated for multiple DR endpoints.
NRF2 was expressed prominently in Müller glial cells and astrocytes in both human and mouse retinas. In cultured MIO-M1 cells, NRF2 inhibition significantly decreased antioxidant gene expression and exacerbated tert-butyl hydroperoxide- and hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. NRF2 activation strongly increased NRF2 target gene expression and suppressed oxidant-induced reactive oxygen species. Diabetic mice exhibited retinal NRF2 activation, indicated by nuclear translocation. Superoxide levels were significantly increased by diabetes in Nrf2 knockout mice as compared with wild-type mice. Diabetic Nrf2 knockout mice exhibited a reduction in retinal glutathione and an increase in TNF-α protein compared with wild-type mice. Nrf2 knockout mice exhibited early onset of blood–retina barrier dysfunction and exacerbation of neuronal dysfunction in diabetes.
These results indicate that NRF2 is an important protective mechanism regulating the progression of DR and suggest enhancement of the NRF2 pathway as a potential therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC4039644  PMID: 24186494
Diabetic retinopathy; Inflammation; Müller glial cells; Neuronal dysfunction; NF-E2-related factor-2; Reactive oxygen species; Transcription factor; Vascular permeability
19.  Cultivated Sea Lettuce is a Multiorgan Protector from Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress by Enhancing the Endogenous Antioxidant Defense System 
Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.)  2013;6(9):10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0014.
The health-promoting effects of seaweeds have been linked to antioxidant activity that may counteract cancer-causing oxidative stress-induced damage and inflammation. While antioxidant activity is commonly associated with direct radical scavenging activity, an alternative way to increase the antioxidant status of a cell is to enhance the endogenous (phase II) defense system consisting of cytoprotective antioxidant enzymes, including NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). These enzymes are transcriptionally regulated by the antioxidant response element (ARE) via the transcription factor Nrf2. Extracts derived from cultivated Ulva sp., a green alga regarded as a marine vegetable (sea lettuce), potently activated the Nrf2-ARE pathway in IMR-32 neuroblastoma and LNCaP prostate cancer cells. RNA interference studies demonstrated that Nrf2 and PI3 kinase are essential for the phase II response in IMR-32 cells. Activity-enriched fractions induced Nrf2 nuclear translocation and target gene transcription, and boosted the cellular glutathione level and therefore antioxidant status. A single-dose gavage feeding of Ulva-derived fractions increased Nqo1 transcript levels in various organs. Nqo1 induction spiked in different tissues, depending on the specific chemical composition of each administered fraction. We purified and characterized four ARE inducers in this extract, including loliolide (1), isololiolide (2), a megastigmen (3), and a novel chlorinated unsaturated aldehyde (4). The ARE-active fractions attenuated lipopolysaccharide-induced iNOS and Cox2 gene expression in macrophagic RAW264.7 cells, decreasing nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production, respectively. Nqo1 activity and NO production were abrogated in nrf2−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts, providing a direct link between the induction of phase II response and anti-inflammatory activity.
PMCID: PMC3819036  PMID: 24005795
natural products; seaweed; Ulva species; antioxidant response element; oxidative stress
20.  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
21.  Bromodomain and Extra-Terminal (BET) proteins suppress nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) -mediated antioxidant gene expression 
Oxidative stress, a pathogenetic factor in many conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) arises due to accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and defective antioxidant defences in the lungs. The latter is due, at least in part, to impaired activation of nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor involved in the activation of antioxidant and cytoprotective genes. The bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) proteins, Brd2, Brd3, Brd4 and BrdT, bind to acetylated lysine residues on histone or non-histone proteins recruiting transcriptional regulators and thus activating or repressing gene transcription. We investigated whether BET proteins modulate the regulation of Nrf2-dependent gene expression in primary human airway smooth muscle cells (ASMCs) and the human monocytic cell line, THP-1. Inhibition of BET protein bromodomains using the inhibitor JQ1+, or attenuation of Brd2 and Brd4 expression using siRNA led to activation of Nrf2-dependent transcription and expression of the antioxidant proteins heme oxygenase (HO)-1, NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) and glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC). Also, JQ1+ prevented hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced intracellular ROS production. By co-immunoprecipitation, BET proteins were found to be complexed with Nrf2, whilst chromatin-immunoprecipitation studies indicated recruitment of Brd2 and Brd4 to Nrf2-binding sites on the promoters of HO-1 and NQO1. BET proteins, particularly Brd2 and Brd4, may play a key role in the regulation of Nrf2-dependent antioxidant gene transcription and are hence an important target for augmenting antioxidant responses in oxidative stress-mediated diseases.
PMCID: PMC4011694  PMID: 24733848
22.  Dimethylfumarate attenuates restenosis after acute vascular injury by cell-specific and Nrf2-dependent mechanisms 
Redox Biology  2014;2:855-864.
Excessive proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and incomplete re-endothelialization is a major clinical problem limiting the long-term efficacy of percutaneous coronary angioplasty. We tested if dimethylfumarate (DMF), an anti-psoriasis drug, could inhibit abnormal vascular remodeling via NF−E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) activity. DMF significantly attenuated neointimal hyperplasia induced by balloon injury in rat carotid arteries via suppression of the G1 to S phase transition resulting from induction of p21 protein in VSMCs. Initially, DMF increased p21 protein stability through an enhancement in Nrf2 activity without an increase in p21 mRNA. Later on, DMF stimulated p21 mRNA expression through a process dependent on p53 activity. However, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) or NQO1 activity, well-known target genes induced by Nrf2, were dispensable for the DMF induction of p21 protein and the effect on the VSMC proliferation. Likewise, DMF protected endothelial cells from TNF-α-induced apoptosis and the dysfunction characterized by decreased eNOS expression. With knock-down of Nrf2 or NQO1, DMF failed to prevent TNF-α-induced cell apoptosis and decreased eNOS expression. Also, CD31 expression, an endothelial specific marker, was restored in vivo by DMF. In conclusion, DMF prevented abnormal proliferation in VSMCs by G1 cell cycle arrest via p21 upregulation driven by Nrf2 and p53 activity, and had a beneficial effect on TNF-α-induced apoptosis and dysfunction in endothelial cells through Nrf2–NQO1 activity suggesting that DMF might be a therapeutic drug for patients with vascular disease.
Graphical abstract
•DMF can attenuate abnormal vascular remodeling after the injury.•The level of p21 protein depends on Nrf2 and p53 activity in DMF treated VSMCs.•Enhanced Nrf2 activity by DMF blocks the proliferation of VSMCs.•DMF increases Nrf2 activity followed by NQO1, leading to decreased apoptosis of ECs.•DMF might be a therapeutic drug for patients with vascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC4087186  PMID: 25009787
DMF, dimethylfumarate; VSMCs, vascular smooth muscle cells; HAECs, human aortic endothelial cells; LST, late stent thrombosis; Nrf2, nuclear-factor-E2-related factor-2; NQO1, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1; HO-1, heme oxygenase-1; PTCA, percutaneous coronary angioplasty; PFT-α, Pifithrin-α; Vascular remodeling; Restenosis; p53 Pathway; Reactive oxygen species; Cell cycle protein; Neointimal hyperplasia
23.  Oleanolic Acid Activates Nrf2 and Protects from Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity via Nrf2-Dependent and Nrf2-independent Processes 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;77(7):1273-1282.
Oleanolic acid is a plant-derived triterpenoid, which protects against various hepatotoxicants in rodents. In order to determine whether oleanolic acid activates nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor known to induce various antioxidant and cytoprotective genes, wild-type and Nrf2-null mice were treated with oleanolic acid (90 mg/kg, i.p.) once daily for three days. Oleanolic acid increased nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 in wild-type but not Nrf2-null mice, as determined by Western blot and immunofluorescence. Oleanolic acid-treated wild-type mice had increased hepatic mRNA expression of the Nrf2 target genes NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (Nqo1); glutamate-cysteine ligase, catalytic subunit (Gclc); heme oxygenase-1 (Ho-1); as well as Nrf2 itself. In addition, oleanolic acid increased protein expression and enzyme activity of the prototypical Nrf2 target gene, Nqo1, in wild-type, but not in Nrf2-null mice. Oleanolic acid protected against acetaminophen hepatotoxicity in wild-type mice but to a lesser extent in Nrf2-null mice. Oleanolic acid-mediated Nrf2-independent protection from acetaminophen is, in part, due to induction of Nrf2-independent cytoprotective genes, such as metallothionein. Collectively, the present study demonstrates that oleanolic acid facilitates Nrf2 nuclear accumulation, causing induction of Nrf2-dependent genes, which contributes to protection from acetaminophen hepatotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC2745914  PMID: 19283895
Nrf2; oleanolic acid; hepatoprotection; oxidative stress; acetaminophen
24.  The Nrf2 transcription factor is a positive regulator of myeloid differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;11(3):317-329.
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D) is a powerful differentiation agent, which has potential for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but induces severe hypercalcemia at pharmacologically active doses. We have previously shown that carnosic acid (CA), the polyphenolic antioxidant from rosemary plant, markedly potentiates differentiation induced by low concentrations of 1,25D in human AML cell lines. Here, we demonstrated similar enhanced differentiation responses to the 1,25D/CA combination in primary leukemic cells derived from patients with AML, and determined the role of the Nrf2/antioxidant response element (Nrf2/ARE) pathway in these effects using U937 human monoblastic leukemia cells as the model. CA strongly transactivated the ARE-luciferase reporter gene, induced the ARE-responsive genes, NADP(H)-quinone oxidoreductase and the γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase heavy subunit, and elevated cellular glutathione levels. Interestingly, 1,25D potentiated the effects of CA on these activities. Stable transfection of wild-type (wt) Nrf2 resulted in the enhancement, while transfection of dominant-negative (dn) Nrf2 produced suppression of differentiation induced by the 1,25D/CA combination and, surprisingly, by 1,25D alone. These opposite effects were associated with a corresponding increase or decrease in vitamin D receptor and retinoid X receptor-α protein levels, and in vitamin D responsive element transactivation. Cells transfected with wtNrf2 and dnNrf2 also displayed opposing changes in the levels of the AP-1 family proteins (c-Jun and ATF2) and AP-1 transcriptional activity. Pretreatment with AP-1 decoy oligodeoxynucleotide markedly attenuated the differentiation in wtNrf2-transfected cells, suggesting that the pro-differentiation action of Nrf2 is mediated by functional AP-1. Our findings suggest that the Nrf2/ARE pathway plays an important part in the cooperative induction of myeloid leukemia cell differentiation by 1,25D and a plant polyphenol.
PMCID: PMC3047086  PMID: 21099366
vitamin D3; carnosic acid; antioxidant response element; vitamin D receptor; AP-1 transcription factor
25.  Transforming Growth Factor-β and Nuclear Factor E2–related Factor 2 Regulate Antioxidant Responses in Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
Rationale: Aberrant airway smooth muscle cell (ASMC) function and overexpression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, which modulates ASMC proliferative and inflammatory function and induces oxidant release, are features of asthma. Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activates antioxidant genes conferring protection against oxidative stress.
Objectives: To determine the role of Nrf2 in ASMCs and its modulation by TGF-β, and compare Nrf2 activity in ASMCs from subjects with severe and nonsevere asthma and healthy subjects.
Methods: ASMCs were cultured from airways of subjects without asthma, and from airway biopsies from patients with severe and nonsevere asthma. We studied Nrf2 activation on antioxidant gene expression and proliferation, the effect of TGF-β on Nrf2 transcriptional activity, and the impact of Nrf2 activation on TGF-β–mediated proliferation and IL-6 release. Nrf2–antioxidant response elements binding and Nrf2-dependent antioxidant gene expression was determined in asthmatic ASMCs.
Measurements and Main Results: Activation of Nrf2 led to up-regulation of the antioxidant genes heme oxygenase (HO)-1, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, and manganese superoxide dismutase, and a reduction in proliferation. TGF-β reduced Nrf2-mediated antioxidant gene transcription through induction of activating transcription factor-3 expression. Nrf2 activation attenuated TGF-β–mediated reduction in HO-1, ASMC proliferation, and IL-6 release. Nrf2–antioxidant response elements binding was reduced in ASMCs from patients with severe asthma compared with ASMCs from patients with nonsevere asthma and normal subjects. HO-1 expression was reduced in ASMCs from patients with both nonsevere and severe asthma compared with healthy subjects.
Conclusions: Nrf2 regulates antioxidant responses and proliferation in ASMCs and is inactivated by TGF-β. Nrf2 reduction may underlie compromised antioxidant protection and aberrant ASM function in asthma.
PMCID: PMC3402549  PMID: 21799075
asthma; airway smooth muscle; nuclear factor E2-related factor 2; transforming growth factor-β; antioxidant

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