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1.  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
2.  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
3.  Chromium picolinate and chromium histidinate protects against renal dysfunction by modulation of NF-κB pathway in high-fat diet fed and Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats 
Diabetic nephropathy is one of major complications of diabetes mellitus. Although chromium is an essential element for carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, its effects on diabetic nephropathy are not well understood. The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of chromium picolinate (CrPic) and chromium histidinate (CrHis) on nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) and nuclear factor-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) pathway in the rat kidney.
Male Wistar rats were divided into six groups. Group I received a standard diet (8% fat) and served as a control; Group II was fed with a standard diet and received CrPic; Group III was fed with a standard diet and received CrHis; Group IV received a high fat diet (HFD, 40% fat) for 2 weeks and then were injected with streptozotocin (STZ) (HFD/STZ); Group V was treated as group IV (HFD/STZ) but supplemented with CrPic for 12 weeks. Group VI was treated as group IV (HFD/STZ) but supplemented with CrHis.
The increased NF-κβ p65 in the HFD/STZ group was inhibited by CrPic and CrHis supplementation (P < 0.05). In STZ-treated rats, a significant decrease in levels of nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B-cells inhibitor, alpha (IκBα) was found in kidney tissues when compared to control rats (P < 0.05). A significant increase in the levels of IκBα was observed in CrPic- and CrHis-treated rats when compared with STZ-treated rats. Renal Nrf2 levels were significantly decreased in diabetic rats compared with the control rats. There was a higher tendency for increase of kidney Nrf2 level and decrease in kidney NFκBp65 levels and 4- hydroxyl nonenal (4-HNE) protein adducts (P < 0.05) in diabetic rats.
Our result show that in kidney tissue CrHis/CrPic increases Nrf2 level, parallelly decreases NF-κB and partially restores IκBα levels in HFD/STZ group, suggesting that CrPic and CrHis may play a role in antioxidant defense system via the Nrf2 pathway by reducing inflammation through NF-κβ p65 inhibition. Moreover, a greater reduction in NF-κB expression and greater increases in expressions of IκBα and Nrf2 in diabetic rats supplemented with CrHis than rats supplemented with CrPic suggest that CrHis has more favorable effects than CrPic.
PMCID: PMC3348071  PMID: 22483164
Chromium picolinate/histidinate; NF-κB; IκB; Nrf2; HNE; Kidney
4.  Nrf2 Modulates Contractile and Metabolic Properties of Skeletal Muscle in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Atrophy 
Experimental cell research  2013;319(17):10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.07.015.
The role of Nrf2 in disease prevention and treatment is well documented, however the specific role of Nrf2 in skeletal muscle is not well described. The current study investigated whether Nrf2 plays a protective role in an STZ-induced model of skeletal muscle atrophy.
Modulation of Nrf2 through siRNA resulted in a more robust differentiation of C2C12s, whereas increasing Nrf2 with sulforaphane treatment inhibited differentiation. Diabetic muscle atrophy was not dramatically influenced by Nrf2 genotype, since no differences were observed in total atrophy (all fiber types combined) between WT+STZ and KO+STZ animals. Nrf2-KO animals however, illustrated alterations in muscle size of Fast, Type II myosin expressing fibers. KO+STZ animals show significant alterations in myosin isoform expression in the GAST. Similarly, KO controls mimic both WT+STZ and KO+STZ muscle alterations in mitochondrial subunit expression. PGC-1α, a well-established player in mitochondrial biogenesis and myosin isoform expression, was decreased in KO control, WT+STZ and KO+STZ SOL muscle. Similarly, PGC-1α protein levels are correlated with Nrf2 levels in C2C12s after modulation by Nrf2 siRNA or sulforaphane treatment.
We provide experimental evidence indicating Nrf2 plays a role in myocyte differentiation and governs molecular alterations in contractile and metabolic properties in an STZ-induced model of muscle atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3809009  PMID: 23896025
Nrf2; skeletal muscle; atrophy; myosin; metabolism
5.  Nrf2 suppresses lupus nephritis through inhibition of oxidative injury and the NF-κB-mediated inflammatory response 
Kidney international  2013;85(2):333-343.
The generation of reactive oxygen species plays a pivotal role in both acute and chronic glomerular injuries in patients with lupus nephritis. Since the transcription factor Nrf2 is a major regulator of the antioxidant response and is a primary cellular defense mechanism we sought to determine a role of Nrf2 in the progression of lupus nephritis. Pathological analyses of renal biopsies from patients with different types of lupus nephritis showed oxidative damage in the glomeruli, accompanied by an active Nrf2 antioxidant response. A murine lupus nephritis model using Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice was established using pristine injection. In this model, Nrf2−/− mice suffered from greater renal damage and had more severe pathological alterations in the kidney. In addition, Nrf2+/+ mice showed ameliorative renal function when treated with sulforaphane, an Nrf2 inducer. Nrf2−/− mice had higher expression of TGFβ1, fibronectin and iNOS. In primary mouse mesangial cells, the nephritogenic monoclonal antibody R4A activated the NF-κB pathway and increased the level of reactive oxygen species, iNOS, TGFβ1 and fibronectin. Knockdown of Nrf2 expression aggravated all aforementioned responses induced by R4A. Thus, these results suggest that Nrf2 improves lupus nephritis by neutralizing reactive oxygen species and by negatively regulating the NF-κB and TGFβ1 signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3992978  PMID: 24025640
lupus nephritis; Nrf2; ROS; NF-κB; TGFβ1; iNOS
6.  Prevention of Diabetic Nephropathy by Sulforaphane: Possible Role of Nrf2 Upregulation and Activation 
The present study was to investigate whether sulforaphane (SFN) can prevent diabetic nephropathy in type 1 diabetic mouse model induced by multiple low-dose streptozotocin. Diabetic and age-matched control mice were given SFN at 0.5 mg/kg body weight daily for 3 months. At the end of 3-month SFN treatment, the diabetic nephropathy, shown by renal inflammation, oxidative damage, fibrosis, and dysfunction, was significantly prevented along with an elevation of renal Nrf2 expression and transcription in diabetes/SFN group compared with diabetic group. However, this renal prevention by SFN was not seen when the 3-month SFN-treated diabetic mice were aged for additional 3 months without further SFN treatment. Nrf2-mediated renal protective effects in diabetes were evaluated in human renal tubular HK11 cells transfected with control and Nrf2 siRNA and treated with 27.5 mM mannitol or high glucose plus palmitate (300 μM). Blockade of Nrf2 expression completely abolished SFN prevention of the profibrotic effect induced by high glucose plus palmitate. These results support that renal Nrf2 expression and its transcription play important roles in SFN prevention of diabetes-induced renal damage. However, the SFN preventive effect on diabetes-induced renal pathogeneses is not sustained, suggesting the requirement of continual use of SFN for its sustained effect.
PMCID: PMC3461640  PMID: 23050040
7.  Multiple Low-Dose Radiation Prevents Type 2 Diabetes-Induced Renal Damage through Attenuation of Dyslipidemia and Insulin Resistance and Subsequent Renal Inflammation and Oxidative Stress 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92574.
Dyslipidemia and lipotoxicity-induced insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress are the key pathogeneses of renal damage in type 2 diabetes. Increasing evidence shows that whole-body low dose radiation (LDR) plays a critical role in attenuating insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress.
The aims of the present study were to investigate whether LDR can prevent type 2 diabetes-induced renal damage and the underlying mechanisms.
Mice were fed with a high-fat diet (HFD, 40% of calories from fat) for 12 weeks to induce obesity followed by a single intraperitoneal injection of streptozotocin (STZ, 50 mg/kg) to develop a type 2 diabetic mouse model. The mice were exposed to LDR at different doses (25, 50 and 75 mGy) for 4 or 8 weeks along with HFD treatment. At each time-point, the kidney weight, renal function, blood glucose level and insulin resistance were examined. The pathological changes, renal lipid profiles, inflammation, oxidative stress and fibrosis were also measured.
HFD/STZ-induced type 2 diabetic mice exhibited severe pathological changes in the kidney and renal dysfunction. Exposure of the mice to LDR for 4 weeks, especially at 50 and 75 mGy, significantly improved lipid profiles, insulin sensitivity and protein kinase B activation, meanwhile, attenuated inflammation and oxidative stress in the diabetic kidney. The LDR-induced anti-oxidative effect was associated with up-regulation of renal nuclear factor E2-related factor-2 (Nrf-2) expression and function. However, the above beneficial effects were weakened once LDR treatment was extended to 8 weeks.
These results suggest that LDR exposure significantly prevented type 2 diabetes-induced kidney injury characterized by renal dysfunction and pathological changes. The protective mechanisms of LDR are complicated but may be mainly attributed to the attenuation of dyslipidemia and the subsequent lipotoxicity-induced insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3961432  PMID: 24651118
8.  Nrf2 Deficiency Improves Glucose Tolerance in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2012;264(3):305-314.
Nrf2, a master regulator of intracellular redox homeostasis, is indicated to participate in fatty acid metabolism in liver. However, its role in diet-induced obesity remains controversial. In the current study, genetically engineered Nrf2-null, wild-type (WT), and Nrf2-activated, Keap1-knockdown (K1-KD) mice were fed either a control or a high-fat western diet (HFD) for 12 weeks. The results indicate that the absence or enhancement of Nrf2 activity did not prevent diet-induced obesity, had limited effects on lipid metabolism, but affected blood glucose homeostasis. Whereas the Nrf2-null mice were resistant to HFD-induced glucose intolerance, the Nrf2-activated K1-KD mice exhibited prolonged elevation of circulating glucose during a glucose tolerance test even on the control diet. Feeding a HFD did not activate the Nrf2 signaling pathway in mouse livers. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (Fgf21) is a liver-derived anti-diabetic hormone that exerts glucose- and lipid-lowering effects. Fgf21 mRNA and protein were both elevated in livers of Nrf2-null mice, and Fgf21 protein was lower in K1-KD mice than WT mice. The inverse correlation between Nrf2 activity and hepatic expression of Fgf21 might explain the improved glucose tolerance in Nrf2-null mice. Furthermore, a more oxidative cellular environment in Nrf2-null mice could affect insulin signaling in liver. For example, mRNA of insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1, a gene repressed by insulin in hepatocytes, was markedly elevated in livers of Nrf2-null mice. In conclusion, genetic alteration of Nrf2 does not prevent diet-induced obesity in mice, but deficiency of Nrf2 improves glucose homeostasis, possibly through its effects on Fgf21 and/or insulin signaling.
PMCID: PMC3507999  PMID: 23017736
Nrf2; high-fat diet; obesity; Fgf21; glucose intolerance; redox signaling
9.  Decline in NRF2-regulated Antioxidants in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Lungs Due to Loss of Its Positive Regulator, DJ-1 
Rationale: Oxidative stress is a key contributor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pathogenesis caused by cigarette smoking. NRF2, a redox-sensitive transcription factor, dissociates from its inhibitor, KEAP1, to induce antioxidant expression that inhibits oxidative stress.
Objectives: To determine the link between severity of COPD, oxidative stress, and NRF2-dependent antioxidant levels in the peripheral lung tissue of patients with COPD.
Methods: We assessed the expression of NRF2, NRF2-dependent antioxidants, regulators of NRF2 activity, and oxidative damage in non-COPD (smokers and former smokers) and smoker COPD lungs (mild and advanced). Cigarette smoke–exposed human lung epithelial cells (Beas2B) and mice were used to understand the mechanisms.
Measurements and Main Results: When compared with non-COPD lungs, the COPD patient lungs showed (1) marked decline in NRF2-dependent antioxidants and glutathione levels, (2) increased oxidative stress markers, (3) significant decrease in NRF2 protein with no change in NRF2 mRNA levels, and (4) similar KEAP1 but significantly decreased DJ-1 levels (a protein that stabilizes NRF2 protein by impairing KEAP1-dependent proteasomal degradation of NRF2). Exposure of Bea2B cells to cigarette smoke caused oxidative modification and enhanced proteasomal degradation of DJ-1 protein. Disruption of DJ-1 in mouse lungs, mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and Beas2B cells lowered NRF2 protein stability and impaired antioxidant induction in response to cigarette smoke. Interestingly, targeting KEAP1 by siRNA or the small-molecule activator sulforaphane restored induction of NRF2-dependent antioxidants in DJ-1–disrupted cells in response to cigarette smoke.
Conclusions: NRF2-dependent antioxidants and DJ-1 expression was negatively associated with severity of COPD. Therapy directed toward enhancing NRF2-regulated antioxidants may be a novel strategy for attenuating the effects of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of COPD.
PMCID: PMC2542433  PMID: 18556627
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; NRF2; DJ-1; oxidative stress; antioxidants
10.  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
11.  Novel Hematopoietic Target Genes in the NRF2-Mediated Transcriptional Pathway 
Nuclear factor- (erythroid-derived 2) like 2 (NFE2L2, NRF2) is a key transcriptional activator of the antioxidant response pathway and is closely related to erythroid transcription factor NFE2. Under oxidative stress, NRF2 heterodimerizes with small Maf proteins and binds cis-acting enhancer sequences found near oxidative stress response genes. Using the dietary isothiocyanate sulforaphane (SFN) to activate NRF2, chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) identified several hundred novel NRF2-mediated targets beyond its role in oxidative stress. Activated NRF2 bound the antioxidant response element (ARE) in promoters of several known and novel target genes involved in iron homeostasis and heme metabolism, including known targets FTL and FTH1, as well as novel binding in the globin locus control region. Five novel NRF2 target genes were chosen for followup: AMBP, ABCB6, FECH, HRG-1 (SLC48A1), and TBXAS1. SFN-induced gene expression in erythroid K562 and lymphoid cells were compared for each target gene. NRF2 silencing showed reduced expression in lymphoid, lung, and hepatic cells. Furthermore, stable knockdown of NRF2 negative regulator KEAP1 in K562 cells resulted in increased NQO1, AMBP, and TBXAS1 expression. NFE2 binding sites in K562 cells revealed similar binding profiles as lymphoid NRF2 sites in all potential NRF2 candidates supporting a role for NRF2 in heme metabolism and erythropoiesis.
PMCID: PMC3677633  PMID: 23766848
12.  Low-Dose Radiation Activates Akt and Nrf2 in the Kidney of Diabetic Mice: A Potential Mechanism to Prevent Diabetic Nephropathy 
Repetitive exposure of diabetic mice to low-dose radiation (LDR) at 25 mGy could significantly attenuate diabetes-induced renal inflammation, oxidative damage, remodeling, and dysfunction, for which, however, the underlying mechanism remained unknown. The present study explored the effects of LDR on the expression and function of Akt and Nrf2 in the kidney of diabetic mice. C57BL/6J mice were used to induce type 1 diabetes with multiple low-dose streptozotocin. Diabetic and age-matched control mice were irradiated with whole body X-rays at either single 25 mGy and 75 mGy or accumulated 75 mGy (25 mGy daily for 3 days) and then sacrificed at 1–12 h for examining renal Akt phosphorylation and Nrf2 expression and function. We found that 75 mGy of X-rays can stimulate Akt signaling pathway and upregulate Nrf2 expression and function in diabetic kidneys; single exposure of 25 mGy did not, but three exposures to 25 mGy of X-rays could offer a similar effect as single exposure to 75 mGy on the stimulation of Akt phosphorylation and the upregulation of Nrf2 expression and transcription function. These results suggest that single 75 mGy or multiple 25 mGy of X-rays can stimulate Akt phosphorylation and upregulate Nrf2 expression and function, which may explain the prevention of LDR against the diabetic nephropathy mentioned above.
PMCID: PMC3514845  PMID: 23227273
13.  Coordinated Induction of Nrf2 Target Genes Protects Against Iron Nitrilotriacetate (FeNTA)-Induced Nephrotoxicity 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2008;231(3):364-373.
The iron chelate, ferric nitrilotriacetate (FeNTA), induces acute proximal tubular necrosis as a consequence of lipid peroxidation and oxidative tissue damage. Chronic exposure of FeNTA leads to a high incidence of renal adenocarcinomas in rodents. NF-e2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that is activated by oxidative stress and electrophiles, and regulates the basal and inducible expression of numerous detoxifying and antioxidant genes. To determine the roles of Nrf2 in regulating renal gene expression and protecting against oxidative stress-induced kidney damage, wild-type and Nrf2-null mice were administered FeNTA. Renal Nrf2 protein translocated to the nucleus at 6 h after FeNTA treatment. FeNTA increased mRNA levels of Nrf2 target genes, including NQO1, GCLC, GSTpi1/2, Mrp1, 2, and 4 in kidneys from wild-type mice, but not Nrf2-null mice. Protein expression of NQO1, a prototypical Nrf2 target gene, was increased in wild-type mice, with no change in Nrf2-null mice. FeNTA produced more nephrotoxicity in Nrf2-null mice than wild-type mice as indicated by higher serum urea nitrogen and creatinine levels, as more urinary NAG, stronger 4-hydroxynonenal protein adduct staining, and more extensive proximal tubule damage. Furthermore, pretreatment with CDDO-Im, a potent small molecule Nrf2 activator, protected mice against FeNTA-induced renal toxicity. Collectively, these results suggest that activation of Nrf2 protects mouse kidneys from FeNTA-induced oxidative stress damage by coordinately up-regulating the expression of cytoprotective genes.
PMCID: PMC2582522  PMID: 18617210
Nrf2; FeNTA; NQO1; oxidative stress; Mrp; kidney
14.  Anthocyanin-Rich Purple Corn Extract Inhibit Diabetes-Associated Glomerular Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79823.
Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is one of the major diabetic complications and the leading cause of end-stage renal disease. Abnormal angiogenesis results in new vessels that are often immature and play a pathological role in DN, contributing to renal fibrosis and disrupting glomerular failure. Purple corn has been utilized as a daily food and exerts disease-preventive activities. This study was designed to investigate whether anthocyanin-rich purple corn extract (PCE) prevented glomerular angiogenesis under hyperglycemic conditions. Human endothelial cells were cultured in conditioned media of mesangial cells exposed to 33 mM high glucose (HG-HRMC-CM). PCE decreased endothelial expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α induced by HG-HRMC-CM. Additionally, PCE attenuated the induction of the endothelial marker of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM)-1 and integrin β3 enhanced in HG-HRMC-CM. Endothelial tube formation promoted by HG-HRMC-CM was disrupted in the presence of PCE. In the in vivo study employing db/db mice treated with 10 mg/kg PCE for 8 weeks, PCE alleviated glomerular angiogenesis of diabetic kidneys by attenuating the induction of VEGF and HIF-1α. Oral administration of PCE retarded the endothelial proliferation in db/db mouse kidneys, evidenced by its inhibition of the induction of vascular endothelium-cadherin, PECAM-1 and Ki-67. PCE diminished the mesangial and endothelial induction of angiopoietin (Angpt) proteins under hypeglycemic conditions. The induction and activation of VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) were dampened by treating PCE to db/db mice. These results demonstrate that PCE antagonized glomerular angiogenesis due to chronic hyperglycemia and diabetes through disturbing the Angpt-Tie-2 ligand-receptor system linked to renal VEGFR2 signaling pathway. Therefore, PCE may be a potent therapeutic agent targeting abnormal angiogenesis in DN leading to kidney failure.
PMCID: PMC3835931  PMID: 24278186
15.  Zinc is essential for the transcription function of Nrf2 in human renal tubule cells in vitro and mouse kidney in vivo under the diabetic condition 
Increasing evidence from human and laboratory studies showed the effect of zinc (Zn) on diabetic complications. Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) plays important role in the prevention of oxidative damage. This study was to define whether Zn statues (deficiency or supplement) affect the Nrf2 expression and function, and also affect the damage severity of human renal tubular (HK11) cells exposed to high glucose (HG) with palmitate (Pal) and kidney of diabetic mice induced by multiple low-dose streptozotocins. For Zn deficiency diabetic mice were treated with Zn chelator PTEN at 5 mg/kg bw daily for 4 months. Results showed that HG/Pal significantly increased the expression of pro-fibrotic mediators, connective tissue growth factor and PAI-1, in HK11 cells, which was exacerbated by TPEN that depleted intracellular free Zn and decreased Nrf2 expression and transcription. Zn supplement prevented the effects of TPEN and also increased Akt and GSK-3β phosphorylation with a decrease in Nrf2 nuclear exporter, Fyn. All these effects of Zn were abolished by Akt inhibitor. Therefore, Zn up-regulates Nrf2 function via activating Akt-mediated inhibition of Fyn function. Treatment of diabetic mice with TPEN decreased renal Zn level and Nrf2 expression and transcription, with an exacerbation of renal oxidative damage, inflammation and fibrosis. These results suggest the essentiality of Zn for Nrf2 expression and transcription function.
PMCID: PMC4119395  PMID: 24597671
Akt phosphorylation; diabetic nephropathy; Fyn; Nrf2; TPEN; zinc chelation
16.  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
17.  Antiviral Activity of Nrf2 in a Murine Model of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Disease 
Rationale: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most frequent cause of significant lower respiratory illness in infants and young children, but its pathogenesis is not fully understood. The transcription factor Nrf2 protects lungs from oxidative injury and inflammation via antioxidant response element (ARE)-mediated gene induction.
Objectives: The current study was designed to determine the role of Nrf2-mediated cytoprotective mechanisms in murine airway RSV disease.
Methods: Nrf2-deficient (Nrf2−/−) and wild-type (Nrf2+/+) mice were intranasally instilled with RSV or vehicle. In a separate study, Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice were treated orally with sulforaphane (an Nrf2-ARE inducer) or phosphate-buffered saline before RSV infection.
Measurements and Main Results: RSV-induced bronchopulmonary inflammation, epithelial injury, and mucus cell metaplasia as well as nasal epithelial injury were significantly greater in Nrf2−/− mice than in Nrf2+/+ mice. Compared with Nrf2+/+ mice, significantly attenuated viral clearance and IFN-γ, body weight loss, heightened protein/lipid oxidation, and AP-1/NF-κB activity along with suppressed antioxidant induction was found in Nrf2−/− mice in response to RSV. Sulforaphane pretreatment significantly limited lung RSV replication and virus-induced inflammation in Nrf2+/+ but not in Nrf2−/− mice.
Conclusions: The results of this study support an association of oxidant stress with RSV pathogenesis and a key role for the Nrf2-ARE pathway in host defense against RSV.
PMCID: PMC2633060  PMID: 18931336
airway; oxidative stress; antioxidant response element; inflammation; sulforaphane
18.  Delayed treatment with oleanolic acid attenuates tubulointerstitial fibrosis in chronic cyclosporine nephropathy through Nrf2/HO-1 signaling 
Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) is known to protect against tissue injury by orchestrating antioxidant and detoxification responses to oxidative stress. This study investigated whether upregulation of Nrf2-dependent signaling by oleanolic acid (OA), which is known to activate Nrf2, could attenuate renal inflammation and fibrosis in cyclosporine (CsA)-induced kidney injury.
Male ICR mice were divided into four treatment groups: Vehicle (VH, n = 6), VH + OA (n = 6), CsA (n = 8), and CsA + OA (n = 8). For the OA-treated groups, OA (25 mg/kg/day) was administered by intraperitoneal injection for the final week of the 4-week experimental period. Renal function, morphologies and signaling were evaluated at the end of the study.
Treatment with CsA resulted in decreased kidney function and urine osmolality and increased urine volume and urinary albumin levels. The CsA-induced changes were improved by OA treatment. Specifically, administration of OA decreased tubulointerstitial fibrosis and inflammation scores that were increased in CsA-treated mice. Furthermore, OA treatment decreased urinary 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) and 8-epi-prostaglandin F2α (8-iso-PGF2α) levels. The beneficial effects of OA were attributed to an increased ratio of nuclear/total Nrf2 and subsequently enhanced expression of heme oxygenase (HO)-1, as well as a stable level of Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) expression, indicating that OA enhanced nuclear translocation of Nrf2. Increased apoptotic cell death and a high ratio of B cell leukaemia/lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2)-associated X protein (Bax) to Bcl-2 in CsA-treated mice were also significantly ameliorated by OA treatment.
Our results suggest that OA activates Nrf2/HO-1 signaling in chronic CsA nephropathy, which may have beneficial effects on inflammation and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3939938  PMID: 24559268
Cyclosporine; Kidney; Fibrosis; Oleanolic acid; Oxidative stress
19.  Targeted Deletion of Nrf2 Impairs Lung Development and Oxidant Injury in Neonatal Mice 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2012;17(8):1066-1082.
Aims: Nrf2 is an essential transcription factor for protection against oxidant disorders. However, its role in organ development and neonatal disease has received little attention. Therapeutically administered oxygen has been considered to contribute to bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in prematurity. The current study was performed to determine Nrf2-mediated molecular events during saccular-to-alveolar lung maturation, and the role of Nrf2 in the pathogenesis of hyperoxic lung injury using newborn Nrf2-deficient (Nrf2−/−) and wild-type (Nrf2+/+) mice. Results: Pulmonary basal expression of cell cycle, redox balance, and lipid/carbohydrate metabolism genes was lower while lymphocyte immunity genes were more highly expressed in Nrf2−/− neonates than in Nrf2+/+ neonates. Hyperoxia-induced phenotypes, including mortality, arrest of saccular-to-alveolar transition, and lung edema, and inflammation accompanying DNA damage and tissue oxidation were significantly more severe in Nrf2−/− neonates than in Nrf2+/+ neonates. During lung injury pathogenesis, Nrf2 orchestrated expression of lung genes involved in organ injury and morphology, cellular growth/proliferation, vasculature development, immune response, and cell–cell interaction. Bioinformatic identification of Nrf2 binding motifs and augmented hyperoxia-induced inflammation in genetically deficient neonates supported Gpx2 and Marco as Nrf2 effectors. Innovation: This investigation used lung transcriptomics and gene targeted mice to identify novel molecular events during saccular-to-alveolar stage transition and to elucidate Nrf2 downstream mechanisms in protection from hyperoxia-induced injury in neonate mouse lungs. Conclusion: Nrf2 deficiency augmented lung injury and arrest of alveolarization caused by hyperoxia during the newborn period. Results suggest a therapeutic potential of specific Nrf2 activators for oxidative stress-associated neonatal disorders including BPD. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 00, 000–000.
PMCID: PMC3423869  PMID: 22400915
20.  TGFβ1 Mediates Alcohol-Induced Nrf2 Suppression in Lung Fibroblasts 
Chronic alcohol ingestion induces the expression of transforming growth factor beta-1(TGFβ1), inhibits nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2)-mediated activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE), depletes alveolar glutathione pools, and potentiates acute lung injury. In this study, we examined the mechanistic relationship between TGFβ1 and Nrf2-ARE signaling in the experimental alcoholic lung.
Wild-type mice were treated ± alcohol in drinking water for 8 weeks and their lungs were assessed for Nrf2 expression. In parallel, mouse lung fibroblasts were cultured ± alcohol and treated ± sulforaphane (SFP; an activator of Nrf2), ±TGFβ1, ±TGFβ1 neutralizing antibody, and/or ±activin receptor-like kinase 5 inhibitors (to block TGβ1 receptor signaling) and then analyzed for the expression of Nrf2, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) and TGFβ1, Nrf2-ARE activity, and the expression of the Nrf2-ARE-dependent antioxidants glutathione s-transferase theta 2 (GSTT2) and glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC). Finally, silencing RNA (siRNA) of Nrf2 was then performed prior to alcohol exposure and subsequent analysis of TGFβ1 expression.
Alcohol treatment in vivo or in vitro decreased Nrf2 expression in murine whole lung and lung fibroblasts, respectively. In parallel, alcohol exposure in vitro decreased Keap1 gene and protein expression in lung fibroblasts. Furthermore, alcohol exposure increased TGFβ1 expression but decreased Nrf2-ARE activity and expression of the ARE-dependent genes for GSTT2 and GCLC. These effects of alcohol were prevented by treatment with SFP; in contrast, Nrf2 SiRNA expression exacerbated alcohol-induced TGFβ1 expression. Finally, TGFβ1 treatment directly suppressed Nrf2-ARE activity whereas blocking TGFβ1 signaling attenuated alcohol-induced suppression of Nrf2-ARE activity.
Alcohol-induced oxidative stress is mediated by TGFβ1, which suppresses Nrf2-ARE-dependent expression of antioxidant defenses and creates a vicious cycle that feeds back to further increase TGFβ1 expression. These effects of alcohol can be mitigated by activation of Nrf2, suggesting a potential therapy in individuals at risk for lung injury due to alcohol abuse.
PMCID: PMC4244649  PMID: 25421510
Nrf2; Antioxidant Response Element; TGFβ1; Glutathione; Lung Fibroblasts; Alcohol
21.  Transcriptional responses of neonatal mouse lung to hyperoxia by Nrf2 status 
Cytokine  2013;65(1):10.1016/j.cyto.2013.09.021.
Hyperoxia exposure can inhibit alveolar growth in the neonatal lung through induction of p21/ p53 pathways and is a risk factor for the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in preterm infants. We previously found that activation of nuclear factor erythroid 2 p45-related factor (Nrf2) improved survival in neonatal mice exposed to hyperoxia likely due to increased expression of anti-oxidant response genes. It is not known however, whether hyperoxic induced Nrf2 activation attenuates the growth impairment caused by hyperoxia in neonatal lung. To determine if Nrf2 activation modulates cell cycle regulatory pathway genes associated with growth arrest we examined the gene expression in the lungs of Nrf2−/− and Nrf2+/+ neonatal mice at one and three days of hyperoxia exposure.
Microarray analysis was performed in neonatal Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− lungs exposed to one and three days of hyperoxia. Sulforaphane, an inducer of Nrf2 was given to timed pregnant mice to determine if in utero exposure attenuated p21 and IL-6 gene expression in wildtype neonatal mice exposed to hyperoxia.
Cell cycle regulatory genes were induced in Nrf2−/− lung at one day of hyperoxia. At 3 days of hyperoxia, induction of cell cycle regulatory genes was similar in Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− lungs, despite higher inflammatory gene expression in Nrf2−/− lung.
p21/ p53 pathways gene expression was not attenuated by Nrf2 activation in neonatal lung. In utero SUL did not attenuate p21 expression in wildtype neonatal lung exposed to hyperoxia. These findings suggest that although Nrf2 activation induces expression of antioxidant genes, it does not attenuate alveolar growth arrest caused by exposure to hyperoxia.
PMCID: PMC3875154  PMID: 24139870
Alveolar growth inhibition; cell cycle regulatory genes; inflammation; hyperoxia; chronic lung disease of prematurity; bronchopulmonary dysplasia neonatal lung; nuclear factor erythroid 2 p45-related factor
22.  Sulforaphane Attenuation of Type 2 Diabetes-Induced Aortic Damage Was Associated with the Upregulation of Nrf2 Expression and Function 
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) significantly increases risk for vascular complications. Diabetes-induced aorta pathological changes are predominantly attributed to oxidative stress. Nuclear factor E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor orchestrating antioxidant and cytoprotective responses to oxidative stress. Sulforaphane protects against oxidative damage by increasing Nrf2 expression and its downstream target genes. Here we explored the protective effect of sulforaphane on T2DM-induced aortic pathogenic changes in C57BL/6J mice which were fed with high-fat diet for 3 months, followed by a treatment with streptozotocin at 100 mg/kg body weight. Diabetic and nondiabetic mice were randomly divided into groups with and without 4-month sulforaphane treatment. Aorta of T2DM mice exhibited significant increases in the wall thickness and structural derangement, along with significant increases in fibrosis (connective tissue growth factor and transforming growth factor), inflammation (tumor necrosis factor-α and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1), oxidative/nitrative stress (3-nitrotyrosine and 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal), apoptosis, and cell proliferation. However, these pathological changes were significantly attenuated by sulforaphane treatment that was associated with a significant upregulation of Nrf2 expression and function. These results suggest that sulforaphane is able to upregulate aortic Nrf2 expression and function and to protect the aorta from T2DM-induced pathological changes.
PMCID: PMC3953421  PMID: 24707343
23.  Oleanolic acid attenuates renal fibrosis in mice with unilateral ureteral obstruction via facilitating nuclear translocation of Nrf2 
Renal interstitial fibrosis is a common final pathological process in the progression of kidney disease. This is primarily due to oxidative stress, which contributes to renal inflammation and fibrosis. Nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is known to coordinate induction of genes that encode antioxidant enzymes. We investigated the effects of oleanolic acid, a known Nrf2 activator, on oxidative stress-induced renal inflammation and fibrosis.
One day before unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) performed in C57BL/6 mice, oleanolic acid treatment was initiated and was continued until 3 and 7 days after UUO. Renal inflammation and fibrosis, markers of oxidative stress, and changes in Nrf2 expression were subsequently evaluated.
In the obstructed kidneys of UUO mice, oleanolic acid significantly attenuated UUO-induced collagen deposition and fibrosis on day 7. Additionally, significantly less inflammatory cell infiltration, a lower ratio of Bax to Bcl-2 expression, and fewer apoptotic cells on TUNEL staining were observed in the obstructed kidneys of oleanolic acid-treated mice. Oleanolic acid increased the expression of nuclear Nrf2, heme oxygenase-1, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 and heat shock protein 70, and decreased lipid peroxidation in the obstructed kidney of UUO mice. There were no changes in the expression of total Nrf2 and Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1, indicating that oleanolic acid enhanced nuclear translocation of Nrf2.
These results suggest that oleanolic acid may exert beneficial effects on renal fibrosis by increasing nuclear translocation of Nrf2 and subsequently reducing renal oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3896758  PMID: 24393202
24.  Nrf2 protects against As(III)-induced damage in mouse liver and bladder 
Arsenic compounds are classified as toxicants and human carcinogens. Environmental exposure to arsenic imposes a big health issue worldwide. Arsenic elicits its toxic efforts through many mechanisms, including generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Nrf2 is the primary transcription factor that controls expression of a main cellular antioxidant response, which is required for neutralizing ROS and thus defending cells from exogenous insults. Previously, we demonstrated a protective role of Nrf2 against arsenic-induced toxicity using a cell culture model. In this report, we present evidence that Nrf2 protects against liver and bladder injury in response to six-weeks of arsenic exposure in a mouse model. Nrf2−/− mice displayed more severe pathological changes in the liver and bladder, compared to Nrf2+/+ mice. Furthermore, Nrf2−/− mice were more sensitive to arsenic-induced DNA hypomethylation, oxidative DNA damage, and apoptotic cell death. These results indicate a protective role of Nrf2 against arsenic toxicity in vivo. Hence, this work demonstrates the feasibility of using dietary compounds that target activation of the Nrf2 signaling pathway to alleviate arsenic-induced damage.
PMCID: PMC2739886  PMID: 19538980
25.  Dimethylfumarate Attenuates Renal Fibrosis via NF-E2-Related Factor 2-Mediated Inhibition of Transforming Growth Factor-β/Smad Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e45870.
TGF-β plays a key role in the development of renal fibrosis. Suppressing the TGF-β signaling pathway is a possible therapeutic approach for preventing this disease, and reports have suggested that Nrf2 protects against renal fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-β signaling. This study examines whether dimethylfumarate (DMF), which stimulates Nrf2, prevents renal fibrosis via the Nrf2-mediated suppression of TGF-β signaling. Results showed that DMF increased nuclear levels of Nrf2, and both DMF and adenovirus-mediated overexpression of Nrf2 (Ad-Nrf2) decreased PAI-1, alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), fibronectin and type 1 collagen expression in TGF-β-treated rat mesangial cells (RMCs) and renal fibroblast cells (NRK-49F). Additionally, DMF and Ad-Nrf2 repressed TGF-β-stimulated Smad3 activity by inhibiting Smad3 phosphorylation, which was restored by siRNA-mediated knockdown of Nrf2 expression. However, downregulation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)-driven Nrf2 target genes such as NQO1, HO-1 and glutathione S-transferase (GST) did not reverse the inhibitory effect of DMF on TGF-β-induced upregulation of profibrotic genes or extracellular matrix proteins, suggesting an ARE-independent anti-fibrotic activity of DMF. Finally, DMF suppressed unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)-induced renal fibrosis and α-SMA, fibronectin and type 1 collagen expression in the obstructed kidneys from UUO mice, along with increased and decreased expression of Nrf2 and phospho-Smad3, respectively. In summary, DMF attenuated renal fibrosis via the Nrf2-mediated inhibition of TGF-β/Smad3 signaling in an ARE-independent manner, suggesting that DMF could be used to treat renal fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3466265  PMID: 23056222

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