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1.  Bixin protects mice against ventilation-induced lung injury in an NRF2-dependent manner 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:18760.
Mechanical ventilation (MV) is a therapeutic intervention widely used in the clinic to assist patients that have difficulty breathing due to lung edema, trauma, or general anesthesia. However, MV causes ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI), a condition characterized by increased permeability of the alveolar-capillary barrier that results in edema, hemorrhage, and neutrophil infiltration, leading to exacerbated lung inflammation and oxidative stress. This study explored the feasibility of using bixin, a canonical NRF2 inducer identified during the current study, to ameliorate lung damage in a murine VILI model. In vitro, bixin was found to activate the NRF2 signaling pathway through blockage of ubiquitylation and degradation of NRF2 in a KEAP1-C151 dependent manner; intraperitoneal (IP) injection of bixin led to pulmonary upregulation of the NRF2 response in vivo. Remarkably, IP administration of bixin restored normal lung morphology and attenuated inflammatory response and oxidative DNA damage following MV. This observed beneficial effect of bixin derived from induction of the NRF2 cytoprotective response since it was only observed in Nrf2+/+ but not in Nrf2−/− mice. This is the first study providing proof-of-concept that NRF2 activators can be developed into pharmacological agents for clinical use to prevent patients from lung injury during MV treatment.
doi:10.1038/srep18760
PMCID: PMC4700431  PMID: 26729554
2.  Oncogenic KRAS confers chemoresistance by upregulating NRF2 
Cancer research  2014;74(24):7430-7441.
Oncogenic KRAS mutations found in 20–30% of all non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are associated with chemoresistance and poor prognosis. Here we demonstrate that activation of the cell protective stress response gene NRF2 by KRAS is responsible for its ability to promote drug resistance. RNAi-mediated silencing of NRF2 was sufficient to reverse resistance to cisplatin elicited by ectopic expression of oncogenic KRAS in NSCLC cells. Mechanistically, KRAS increased NRF2 gene transcription through a TPA response element (TRE) located in the NRF2 promoter. In a mouse model of mutant KrasG12D-induced lung cancer, we found that suppressing the NRF2 pathway with the chemical inhibitor brusatol enhanced the antitumor efficacy of cisplatin. Co-treatment reduced tumor burden and improved survival. Our findings illuminate the mechanistic details of KRAS-mediated drug resistance and provide a preclinical rationale to improve the management of lung tumors harboring KRAS mutations with NRF2 pathway inhibitors.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-1439
PMCID: PMC4268230  PMID: 25339352
KRAS; NRF2; Brusatol; chemoresistance; TPA Response Element
3.  Nuclear factor, erythroid 2-like 2-associated molecular signature predicts lung cancer survival 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:16889.
Nuclear factor, erythroid 2-like 2 (NFE2L2), a transcription factor also known as NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), is a key cytoprotective gene that regulates critical antioxidant and stress-responsive genes. Nrf2 has been demonstrated to be a promising therapeutic target and useful biomarker in malignant disease. We hypothesized that NFE2L2-mediated gene expression would reflect cancer severity and progression. We conducted a meta-analysis of microarray data for 240 NFE2L2-mediated genes that were enriched in tumor tissues. We then developed a risk scoring system based on NFE2L2 gene expression profiling and designated 50 tumor-associated genes as the NFE2L2-associated molecular signature (NAMS). We tested the relationship between this gene expression signature and both recurrence-free survival and overall survival in lung cancer patients. We find that NAMS predicts clinical outcome in the training cohort and in 12 out of 20 validation cohorts. Cox proportional hazard regressions indicate that NAMS is a robust prognostic gene signature, independent of other clinical and pathological factors including patient age, gender, smoking, gene alteration, MYC level, and cancer stage. NAMS is an excellent predictor of recurrence-free survival and overall survival in human lung cancer. This gene signature represents a promising prognostic biomarker in human lung cancer.
doi:10.1038/srep16889
PMCID: PMC4657037  PMID: 26596768
4.  Functional chromatography reveals three natural products that target the same protein with distinct mechanisms of action 
Access to lead compounds with defined molecular targets continues to be a barrier to the translation of natural product resources. As a solution, we have developed a system that uses discreet, recombinant proteins as the vehicles for natural product isolation. Here, we describe the use of this functional chromatographic method to identify natural products that bind to the AAA+ chaperone, p97, a promising cancer target. Application of this method to a panel of fungal and plant extracts identified rheoemodin, 1-hydroxydehydroherbarin and phomapyrrolidone A as distinct p97 modulators. Excitingly, each of these molecules displayed a unique mechanism of p97 modulation. This discovery provides strong support for the application of functional chromatography to the discovery of protein modulators that would likely escape traditional high-throughput or phenotypic screening platforms.
doi:10.1002/cbic.201402258
PMCID: PMC4187115  PMID: 25125376
p97/VCP/Cdc48; drug discovery; AAA+; ATPase; natural products
5.  Notch1-Dll4 signaling and mechanical force regulate leader cell formation during collective cell migration 
Nature communications  2015;6:6556.
At the onset of collective cell migration, a subset of cells within an initially homogenous population acquires a distinct “leader” phenotype with characteristic morphology and motility. However, the factors driving leader cell formation as well as the mechanisms regulating leader cell density during the migration process remain to be determined. Here, we use single cell gene expression analysis and computational modeling to show that leader cell identity is dynamically regulated by Dll4 signaling through both Notch1 and cellular stress in a migrating epithelium. Time-lapse microscopy reveals that Dll4 is induced in leader cells after the creation of the cell-free region and leader cells are regulated via Notch1-Dll4 lateral inhibition. Furthermore, mechanical stress inhibits Dll4 expression and leader cell formation in the monolayer. Collectively, our findings suggest that a reduction of mechanical force near the boundary promotes Notch1-Dll4 signaling to dynamically regulate the density of leader cells during collective cell migration.
doi:10.1038/ncomms7556
PMCID: PMC4380165  PMID: 25766473
6.  A Curcumin Derivative That Inhibits Vinyl Carbamate-Induced Lung Carcinogenesis via Activation of the Nrf2 Protective Response 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2015;23(8):651-664.
Abstract
Aims: Lung cancer has a high worldwide morbidity and mortality. The employment of chemopreventive agents is effective to reduce lung cancer. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) mitigates insults from both exogenous and endogenous sources and thus has been verified as a target for chemoprevention. Curcumin has long been recognized as a chemopreventive agent, but poor bioavailability and weak Nrf2 induction have prohibited clinical application. Thus, we have developed new curcumin derivatives and tested their Nrf2 induction. Results: Based on curcumin, we synthesized curcumin analogs with five carbon linkages and established a structure–activity relationship for Nrf2 induction. Among these derivatives, bis[2-hydroxybenzylidene]acetone (BHBA) was one of the most potent Nrf2 inducers with minimal toxicity and improved pharmacological properties and was thus selected for further investigation. BHBA activated the Nrf2 pathway in the canonical Keap1-Cys151-dependent manner. Furthermore, BHBA was able to protect human lung epithelial cells against sodium arsenite [As(III)]-induced cytotoxicity. More importantly, in an in vivo vinyl carbamate-induced lung cancer model in A/J mice, preadministration of BHBA significantly reduced lung adenocarcinoma, while curcumin failed to show any effects even at high doses. Innovation: The curcumin derivative, BHBA, is a potent inducer of Nrf2. It was demonstrated to protect against As(III) toxicity in lung epithelial cells in an Nrf2-dependent manner. Furthermore, compared with curcumin, BHBA displayed improved chemopreventive activities in a carcinogen-induced lung cancer model. Conclusion: Taken together, our results demonstrate that BHBA, a curcumin analog with improved Nrf2-activating and chemopreventive activities both in vitro and in vivo, could be developed into a chemoprotective pharmacological agent. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 23, 651–664.
doi:10.1089/ars.2014.6074
PMCID: PMC4560850  PMID: 25891177
7.  Molecular mechanisms of Nrf2 regulation and how these influence chemical modulation for disease intervention 
Biochemical Society Transactions  2015;43(4):680-686.
Nrf2 (nuclear factor erytheroid-derived-2-like 2) transcriptional programmes are activated by a variety of cellular stress conditions to maintain cellular homoeostasis. Under non-stress conditions, Nrf2 is under tight regulation by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS). Detailed mechanistic investigations have shown the Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1)–cullin3 (Cul3)–ring-box1 (Rbx1) E3-ligase to be the primary Nrf2 regulatory system. Recently, both beta-transducin repeat-containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase (β-TrCP) and E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase synoviolin (Hrd1) have been identified as novel E3 ubiquitin ligases that negatively regulate Nrf2 through Keap1-independent mechanisms. In addition to UPS-mediated regulation of Nrf2, investigations have revealed a cross-talk between Nrf2 and the autophagic pathway resulting in activation of Nrf2 in a non-canonical manner. In addition to regulation at the protein level, Nrf2 was recently shown to be regulated at the transcriptional level by oncogenic K-rat sarcoma (Ras). A consequence of these differential regulatory mechanisms is the dual role of Nrf2 in cancer: the canonical, protective role and the non-canonical ‘dark-side’ of Nrf2. Based on the protective role of Nrf2, a vast effort has been dedicated towards identifying novel chemical inducers of Nrf2 for the purpose of chemoprevention. On the other hand, upon malignant transformation, some cancer cells have a constitutively high level of Nrf2 offering a growth advantage, as well as rendering cancer cells resistant to chemotherapeutics. This discovery has led to a new paradigm in cancer treatment; the initially counterintuitive use of Nrf2 inhibitors as adjuvants in chemotherapy. Herein, we will discuss the mechanisms of Nrf2 regulation and how this detailed molecular understanding can be leveraged to develop Nrf2 modulators to prevent diseases, mitigate disease progression or overcome chemoresistance.
doi:10.1042/BST20150020
PMCID: PMC4613518  PMID: 26551712
chemoprevention/chemoresistance; Hrd1; Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1); nuclear factor erytheroid-derived-2-like 2 (Nrf2); reactive oxygen species (ROS); ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS)
8.  Plant Extracts of the Family Lauraceae: A Potential Resource for Chemopreventive Agents that Activate the Nuclear Factor-Erythroid 2-Related Factor 2/Antioxidant Response Element Pathway 
Planta medica  2014;80(5):426-434.
Cells and tissues counteract insults from exogenous or endogenous carcinogens through the expression of genes encoding antioxidants and phase II detoxifying enzymes regulated by antioxidant response element promoter regions. Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 plays a key role in regulating the antioxidant response elements-target gene expression. Hence, the Nrf2/ARE pathway represents a vital cellular defense mechanism against damage caused by oxidative stress and xenobiotics, and is recognized as a potential molecular target for discovering chemo-preventive agents. Using a stable antioxidant response element luciferase reporter cell line derived from human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells combined with a 96-well high-throughput screening system, we have identified a series of plant extracts from the family Lauraceae that harbor Nrf2-inducing effects. These extracts, including Litsea garrettii (ZK-08), Cinnamomum chartophyllum (ZK-02), C. mollifolium (ZK-04), C. camphora var. linaloolifera (ZK-05), and C. burmannii (ZK-10), promoted nuclear translocation of Nrf2, enhanced protein expression of Nrf2 and its target genes, and augmented intracellular glutathione levels. Cytoprotective activity of these extracts against two electrophilic toxicants, sodium arsenite and H2O2, was investigated. Treatment of human bronchial epithelial cells with extracts of ZK-02, ZK-05, and ZK-10 significantly improved cell survival in response to sodium arsenite and H2O2, while ZK-08 showed a protective effect against only H2O2. Importantly, their protective effects against insults from both sodium arsenite and H2O2 were Nrf2-dependent. Therefore, our data provide evidence that the selected plants from the family Lauraceae are potential sources for chemopreventive agents targeting the Nrf2/ARE pathway.
doi:10.1055/s-0034-1368197
PMCID: PMC4393250  PMID: 24585092
Lauraceae; Cinnamomum; Litsea; plant extracts; Nrf2/ARE pathway; chemoprevention
9.  Mapping Photothermally Induced Gene Expression in Living Cells and Tissues by Nanorod-Locked Nucleic Acid Complexes 
ACS Nano  2014;8(4):3597-3605.
The photothermal effect of plasmonic nanostructures has numerous applications, such as cancer therapy, photonic gene circuit, large cargo delivery, and nanostructure-enhanced laser tweezers. The photothermal operation can also induce unwanted physical and biochemical effects, which potentially alter the cell behaviors. However, there is a lack of techniques for characterizing the dynamic cell responses near the site of photothermal operation with high spatiotemporal resolution. In this work, we show that the incorporation of locked nucleic acid probes with gold nanorods allows photothermal manipulation and real-time monitoring of gene expression near the area of irradiation in living cells and animal tissues. The multimodal gold nanorod serves as an endocytic delivery reagent to transport the probes into the cells, a fluorescence quencher and a binding competitor to detect intracellular mRNA, and a plasmonic photothermal transducer to induce cell ablation. We demonstrate the ability of the gold nanorod-locked nucleic acid complex for detecting the spatiotemporal gene expression in viable cells and tissues and inducing photothermal ablation of single cells. Using the gold nanorod-locked nucleic acid complex, we systematically characterize the dynamic cellular heat shock responses near the site of photothermal operation. The gold nanorod-locked nucleic acid complex enables mapping of intracellular gene expressions and analyzes the photothermal effects of nanostructures toward various biomedical applications.
doi:10.1021/nn500107g
PMCID: PMC4004321  PMID: 24645754
gold nanorods; locked nucleic acids; plasmonic nanostructures; photothermal effects; heat shock response; intracellular detection
10.  The antimalarial amodiaquine causes autophagic-lysosomal and proliferative blockade sensitizing human melanoma cells to starvation- and chemotherapy-induced cell death 
Autophagy  2013;9(12):2087-2102.
Pharmacological inhibition of autophagic-lysosomal function has recently emerged as a promising strategy for chemotherapeutic intervention targeting cancer cells. Repurposing approved and abandoned non-oncological drugs is an alternative approach to the identification and development of anticancer therapeutics, and antimalarials that target autophagic-lysosomal functions have recently attracted considerable attention as candidates for oncological repurposing. Since cumulative research suggests that dependence on autophagy represents a specific vulnerability of malignant melanoma cells, we screened a focused compound library of antimalarials for antimelanoma activity. Here we report for the first time that amodiaquine (AQ), a clinical 4-aminoquinoline antimalarial with unexplored cancer-directed chemotherapeutic potential, causes autophagic-lysosomal and proliferative blockade in melanoma cells that surpasses that of its parent compound chloroquine. Monitoring an established set of protein markers (LAMP1, LC3-II, SQSTM1) and cell ultrastructural changes detected by electron microscopy, we observed that AQ treatment caused autophagic-lysosomal blockade in malignant A375 melanoma cells, a finding substantiated by detection of rapid inactivation of lysosomal cathepsins (CTSB, CTSL, CTSD). AQ-treatment was associated with early induction of energy crisis (ATP depletion) and sensitized melanoma cells to either starvation- or chemotherapeutic agent-induced cell death. AQ displayed potent antiproliferative effects, and gene expression array analysis revealed changes at the mRNA (CDKN1A, E2F1) and protein level (TP53, CDKN1A, CCND1, phospho-RB1 [Ser 780]/[Ser 807/811], E2F1) consistent with the observed proliferative blockade in S-phase. Taken together, our data suggest that the clinical antimalarial AQ is a promising candidate for repurposing efforts that aim at targeting autophagic-lysosomal function and proliferative control in malignant melanoma cells.
doi:10.4161/auto.26506
PMCID: PMC3981748  PMID: 24113242
malignant melanoma; amodiaquine; chloroquine; autophagy; lysosome; cathepsin; E2F1; CDKN1A
11.  Tanshinone I Activates the Nrf2-Dependent Antioxidant Response and Protects Against As(III)-Induced Lung Inflammation In Vitro and In Vivo 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(14):1647-1661.
Abstract
Aims: The NF-E2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling pathway regulates the cellular antioxidant response and activation of Nrf2 has recently been shown to limit tissue damage from exposure to environmental toxicants, including As(III). In an attempt to identify improved molecular agents for systemic protection against environmental insults, we have focused on the identification of novel medicinal plant-derived Nrf2 activators. Results: Tanshinones [tanshinone I (T-I), tanshinone IIA, dihydrotanshinone, cryptotanshinone], phenanthrenequinone-based redox therapeutics derived from the medicinal herb Salvia miltiorrhiza, have been tested as experimental therapeutics for Nrf2-dependent cytoprotection. Using a dual luciferase reporter assay overexpressing wild-type or mutant Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1), we demonstrate that T-I is a potent Keap1-C151-dependent Nrf2 activator that stabilizes Nrf2 by hindering its ubiquitination. In human bronchial epithelial cells exposed to As(III), T-I displays pronounced cytoprotective activity with upregulation of Nrf2-orchestrated gene expression. In Nrf2 wild-type mice, systemic administration of T-I attenuates As(III) induced inflammatory lung damage, a protective effect not observed in Nrf2 knockout mice. Innovation: Tanshinones have been identified as a novel class of Nrf2-inducers for antioxidant tissue protection in an in vivo As(III) inhalation model, that is relevant to low doses of environmental exposure. Conclusion: T-I represents a prototype Nrf2-activator that displays cytoprotective activity upon systemic administration targeting lung damage originating from environmental insults. T-I based Nrf2-directed systemic intervention may provide therapeutic benefit in protecting other organs against environmental insults. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 1647–1661.
doi:10.1089/ars.2012.5117
PMCID: PMC3809600  PMID: 23394605
12.  Probing Mechanoregulation of Neuronal Differentiation by Plasma Lithography Patterned Elastomeric Substrates 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6965.
Cells sense and interpret mechanical cues, including cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions, in the microenvironment to collectively regulate various physiological functions. Understanding the influences of these mechanical factors on cell behavior is critical for fundamental cell biology and for the development of novel strategies in regenerative medicine. Here, we demonstrate plasma lithography patterning on elastomeric substrates for elucidating the influences of mechanical cues on neuronal differentiation and neuritogenesis. The neuroblastoma cells form neuronal spheres on plasma-treated regions, which geometrically confine the cells over two weeks. The elastic modulus of the elastomer is controlled simultaneously by the crosslinker concentration. The cell-substrate mechanical interactions are also investigated by controlling the size of neuronal spheres with different cell seeding densities. These physical cues are shown to modulate with the formation of focal adhesions, neurite outgrowth, and the morphology of neuroblastoma. By systematic adjustment of these cues, along with computational biomechanical analysis, we demonstrate the interrelated mechanoregulatory effects of substrate elasticity and cell size. Taken together, our results reveal that the neuronal differentiation and neuritogenesis of neuroblastoma cells are collectively regulated via the cell-substrate mechanical interactions.
doi:10.1038/srep06965
PMCID: PMC4223667  PMID: 25376886
13.  Induction of autophagy contributes to cisplatin resistance in human ovarian cancer cells 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2014;11(1):91-98.
Cisplatin resistance is a major challenge in the clinical treatment of ovarian cancer, of which the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. The aim of the present study was to explore the role of autophagy in cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells. A2780cp cisplatin-resistant ovarian carcinoma cells and the A2780 parental cell line, were used as a model throughout the present study. The cell viability was determined using a water soluble tetrazolium salt-8 assay, and western blot analysis was performed to determine the protein expression levels of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3 I and LC3 II), and Beclin 1. Beclin 1 small interfering (si)RNA and 3-methyladenine (3-MA) were used to determine whether inhibition of autophagy may re-sensitize cisplatin-resistant cells to cisplatin. The ultrastructural analysis of autophagosomes was performed using transmission electron microscopy, and apoptosis was measured by flow cytometry. In both A2780cp and A2780 cells, cisplatin induced the formation of autophagosomes and upregulated the expression levels of autophagy protein markers, LC3 II and Beclin 1. However, the levels of autophagy were significantly higher in A2780cp cells, as compared with the A2780 cells. The combined treatment of cisplatin with 3-MA, the autophagy pharmacological inhibitor, increased the cell death rate, but had no effects on apoptosis, as compared with cisplatin treatment alone in A2780cp cells. However, inhibition of autophagy by siRNA knockdown of Beclin 1 expression enhanced cisplatin-induced cell death and apoptosis. The findings of the present study suggest that autophagy has a protective role in human ovarian cancer cells, and that targeting autophagy may promote chemotherapeutic sensitivity.
doi:10.3892/mmr.2014.2671
PMCID: PMC4237096  PMID: 25322694
ovarian carcinoma; cisplatin; autophagy; resistance
14.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.07.015
PMCID: PMC3809009  PMID: 23896025
Nrf2; skeletal muscle; atrophy; myosin; metabolism
15.  Detection of mRNA in living cells by double-stranded locked nucleic acid probes 
The Analyst  2013;138(17):4777-4785.
Double-stranded probes are homogeneous biosensors for rapid detection of specific nucleotide sequences. These double-stranded probes have been applied in various molecular sensing applications, such as real-time polymerase chain reaction and detection of bacterial 16S rRNA. In this study, we present the design and optimization of double-stranded probes for single-cell gene expression analysis in living cells. With alternating DNA/LNA monomers for optimizing the stability and specificity, we show that the probe is stable in living cells for over 72 hours post-transfection and is capable of detecting changes in gene expression induced by external stimuli. The probes can be delivered to a large number of cells simultaneously by cationic liposomal transfection or to individual cells selectively by photothermal delivery. We also demonstrate that the probe quantifies intracellular mRNA in living cells through the use of an equilibrium analysis. With its effectiveness and performance, the double-stranded probe represents a broadly applicable approach for large-scale single-cell gene expression analysis toward numerous biomedical applications, such as systems biology, cancer, and drug screening.
doi:10.1039/c3an00722g
PMCID: PMC3736730  PMID: 23772441
16.  Bardoxolone Brings Nrf2-Based Therapies to Light 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(5):517-518.
Abstract
The targeted activation of nuclear factor erythroid-derived-2-like 2 (Nrf2) to alleviate symptoms of chronic kidney disease has recently garnered much attention. Unfortunately, the greatest clinical success to date, bardoxolone, failed in phase III clinical trial for unspecified safety reasons. The present letter to the editor discusses the clinical development of bardoxolone and explores potential reasons for the ultimate withdrawal from clinical trials. In particular, was the correct clinical indication pursued and would improved specificity have mitigated the safety concerns? Ultimately, it is concluded that the right clinical indication and heightened specificity will lead to successful Nrf2-based therapies. Therefore, the bardoxolone clinical results do not dampen enthusiasm for Nrf2-based therapies; rather it illuminates the clinical potential of the Nrf2 pathway as a drug target. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 517–518.
doi:10.1089/ars.2012.5118
PMCID: PMC3704121  PMID: 23227819
17.  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.
doi:10.1038/ki.2013.343
PMCID: PMC3992978  PMID: 24025640
lupus nephritis; Nrf2; ROS; NF-κB; TGFβ1; iNOS
18.  Single cell antimicrobial susceptibility testing by confined microchannels and electrokinetic loading 
Analytical chemistry  2013;85(8):3971-3976.
Multidrug-resistant pathogens are an emerging global health problem. In addition to the need of developing new antibiotics in the pipeline, the ability to rapidly determine the antibiotic resistance profiles of bacteria represents one of the most crucial steps toward the management of infectious diseases and the prevention of multidrug-resistant pathogens. Here, we report a single cell antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) approach for rapid determination of the antibiotic resistance of bacterial pathogens. By confining individual bacteria in gas permeable microchannels with dimensions comparable to a single bacterium, the antibiotic resistance of the bacteria can be monitored in real-time at the single cell level. To facilitate the dynamic loading of the bacteria into the confined microchannels for observation, AC electrokinetics is demonstrated for capturing bacteria to defined locations in high-conductivity AST buffer. The electrokinetic technique achieves a loading efficiency of about 75% with a negligible effect on the bacterial growth rate. To optimize the protocol for single cell AST, the bacterial growth rate of individual bacteria under different antibiotic conditions has been determined systematically. The applicability of single cell AST is demonstrated by the rapid determination of the antimicrobial resistant profiles of uropathogenic clinical isolates in Mueller-Hinton media and in urine. The antibiotic resistance profiles of bacteria can be determined in less than one hour compared to days in standard culture-based AST techniques.
doi:10.1021/ac4004248
PMCID: PMC4102406  PMID: 23445209
19.  Tumor protein translationally controlled 1 is a p53 target gene that promotes cell survival 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(14):2321-2328.
Tumor suppressor p53 maintains genome stability by differentially activating target genes that control diverse cellular responses, such as the antioxidant response, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Despite the fact that many p53 downstream genes have been well characterized, novel p53 target genes are continuously being identified. Here, we report that Tpt1 is a direct target gene of p53. We found that p53 upregulates the transcription of Tpt1 and identified a p53-responsive element in the promoter of the mouse Tpt1 gene. Furthermore, p53-dependent induction of Tpt1 was able to reduce oxidative stress, minimize apoptosis, and promote cell survival in response to H2O2 challenge. In addition, a positive correlation between the expression of p53 and Tpt1 only existed in normal lung tissues, not in lung tumors. Such positive correlation was also found in lung cell lines that contain wild-type p53, but not mutated p53. Based on the important role of Tpt1 in cancer development, chemoresistance, and cancer reversion, identification of Tpt1 as a direct target gene of p53 not only adds to the complexity of the p53 network, but may also open up a new avenue for cancer prevention and intervention.
doi:10.4161/cc.25404
PMCID: PMC3755082  PMID: 24067374
p53; Tpt1; TCTP; cancer
20.  USP15 negatively regulates Nrf2 through deubiquitination of Keap1 
Molecular cell  2013;51(1):68-79.
Summary
Nrf2 is a master regulator of the antioxidant response. Under basal conditions Nrf2 is polyubiquitinated by the Keap1-Cul3-E3 ligase and degraded by the 26S-proteasome. In response to Nrf2 inducers there is a switch in polyubiquitination from Nrf2 to Keap1. Currently, regulation of the Nrf2-Keap1 pathway by ubiquitination is largely understood. However, the mechanism responsible for removal of ubiquitin conjugated to Nrf2 or Keap1 remains unknown. Here we report that the deubiquitinating enzyme, USP15, specifically deubiquitinates Keap1, which suppresses the Nrf2 pathway. We demonstrated that deubiquitinated-Keap1 incorporates into the Keap1-Cul3-E3 ligase complex more efficiently, enhancing the complex stability and enzymatic activity. Consequently, there is an increase in Nrf2 protein degradation and a reduction in Nrf2 target gene expression. Furthermore, USP15-siRNA enhances chemoresistance of cells through upregulation of Nrf2. These findings further our understanding of how the Nrf2-Keap1 pathway is regulated, which is imperative in targeting this pathway for chemoprevention or chemotherapy.
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2013.04.022
PMCID: PMC3732832  PMID: 23727018
Nrf2; Keap1; USP15; Cul3; ubiquitination; deubiquitination; antioxidant response; chemoresistance
21.  Nrf2 induces cisplatin resistance through activation of autophagy in ovarian carcinoma 
Cisplatin resistance is a major problem affecting ovarian carcinoma treatment. NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a nuclear transcription factor, plays an important role in chemotherapy resistance. However, the underlying mechanism by which Nrf2 mediates cisplatin chemoresistance is unclear. Methods: The human ovarian carcinoma cell line, A2780, and its cisplatin-resistant variant, A2780cp were cultivated. Cell viability was determined with WST-8 assay. Western blot was applied to detect the expression of Nrf2, Nrf2 target genes, and autophagy-related proteins. RNA interference was used to knock down target genes. Annexin V and propidium iodide (PI) staining was utilized to quantify apoptosis. The ultrastructural analysis of autophagosomes was performed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Results: Nrf2 and its targeting genes, NQO1 and HO-1, are overexpressed in A2780cp cells compared with A2780 cells. Knocking down Nrf2 sensitized A2780cp cells to cisplatin treatment and decreased autophagy-related genes, Atg3, Atg6, Atg12 and p62 in both mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, we demonstrated that in both cell lines cisplatin could induce the formation of autophagosomes and upregulate the expression of autophagy-related genes Atg3, Atg6 and Atg12. Treatment with an autophagy inhibitor, 3-Methyladenine (3-MA), or beclin 1 siRNA enhanced cisplatin-induced cell death in A2780cp cells, suggesting that inhibition of autophagy renders resistant cells to be more sensitive to cisplatin. Taken together, Nrf2 signaling may regulate cisplatin resistance by activating autophagy. Conclusions: Nrf2-activated autophagy may function as a novel mechanism causing cisplatin-resistance.
PMCID: PMC4014230  PMID: 24817946
Ovarian carcinoma; Nrf2; autophagy; cisplatin; chemoresistance
23.  Does Nrf2 Contribute to p53-Mediated Control of Cell Survival and Death? 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2012;17(12):1670-1675.
Abstract
In response to oxidative stress, the transcription factor Nrf2 is upregulated and controls activation of many genes that work in concert to defend cells from damages and to maintain cellular redox homeostasis. p53 has been regarded as the guardian of the genome through its pro-oxidant and antioxidant functions. Under low levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), “normal” amounts of p53 upregulates expression of antioxidant genes, protecting macromolecules from ROS-induced damage. However, at high levels or extended exposure of ROS, p53 expression is enhanced, activating pro-oxidant genes and resulting in p53-dependent apoptosis. We observed a two-phase Nrf2 expression controlled by p53. (i) The induction phase: when p53 expression is relatively low, p53 enhances the protein level of Nrf2 and its target genes to promote cell survival in a p21-dependent manner. (ii) The repression phase: when p53 expression is high, the Nrf2-mediated survival response is inhibited by p53. Our observation leads to the hypothesis that the p53-mediated biphasic regulation of Nrf2 may be key for the tumor-suppressor function of p53 by coordinating cell survival and death pathways. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 17, 1670–1675.
doi:10.1089/ars.2012.4674
PMCID: PMC3474188  PMID: 22559194
24.  Arsenic Inhibits Autophagic Flux, Activating the Nrf2-Keap1 Pathway in a p62-Dependent Manner 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(12):2436-2446.
The Nrf2-Keap1 signaling pathway is a protective mechanism promoting cell survival. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway by natural compounds has been proven to be an effective strategy for chemoprevention. Interestingly, a cancer-promoting function of Nrf2 has recently been observed in many types of tumors due to deregulation of the Nrf2-Keap1 axis, which leads to constitutive activation of Nrf2. Here, we report a novel mechanism of Nrf2 activation by arsenic that is distinct from that of chemopreventive compounds. Arsenic deregulates the autophagic pathway through blockage of autophagic flux, resulting in accumulation of autophagosomes and sequestration of p62, Keap1, and LC3. Thus, arsenic activates Nrf2 through a noncanonical mechanism (p62 dependent), leading to a chronic, sustained activation of Nrf2. In contrast, activation of Nrf2 by sulforaphane (SF) and tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) depends upon Keap1-C151 and not p62 (the canonical mechanism). More importantly, SF and tBHQ do not have any effect on autophagy. In fact, SF and tBHQ alleviate arsenic-mediated deregulation of autophagy. Collectively, these findings provide evidence that arsenic causes prolonged activation of Nrf2 through autophagy dysfunction, possibly providing a scenario similar to that of constitutive activation of Nrf2 found in certain human cancers. This may represent a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity in humans.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01748-12
PMCID: PMC3700105  PMID: 23589329
25.  The Nrf2-inducers tanshinone I and dihydrotanshinone protect human skin cells and reconstructed human skin against solar simulated UV☆ 
Redox Biology  2013;1(1):532-541.
Exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a causative factor in skin photocarcinogenesis and photoaging, and an urgent need exists for improved strategies for skin photoprotection. The redox-sensitive transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2), a master regulator of the cellular antioxidant defense against environmental electrophilic insult, has recently emerged as an important determinant of cutaneous damage from solar UV, and the concept of pharmacological activation of Nrf2 has attracted considerable attention as a novel approach to skin photoprotection. In this study, we examined feasibility of using tanshinones, a novel class of phenanthrenequinone-based cytoprotective Nrf2 inducers derived from the medicinal plant Salvia miltiorrhiza, for protection of cultured human skin cells and reconstructed human skin against solar simulated UV. Using a dual luciferase reporter assay in human Hs27 dermal fibroblasts pronounced transcriptional activation of Nrf2 by four major tanshinones [tanshinone I (T-I), dihydrotanshinone (DHT), tanshinone IIA (T-II-A) and cryptotanshinone (CT)] was detected. In fibroblasts, the more potent tanshinones T-I and DHT caused a significant increase in Nrf2 protein half-life via blockage of ubiquitination, ultimately resulting in upregulated expression of cytoprotective Nrf2 target genes (GCLC, NQO1) with the elevation of cellular glutathione levels. Similar tanshinone-induced changes were also observed in HaCaT keratinocytes. T-I and DHT pretreatment caused significant suppression of skin cell death induced by solar simulated UV and riboflavin-sensitized UVA. Moreover, feasibility of tanshinone-based cutaneous photoprotection was tested employing a human skin reconstruct exposed to solar simulated UV (80 mJ/cm2 UVB; 1.53 J/cm2 UVA). The occurrence of markers of epidermal solar insult (cleaved procaspase 3, pycnotic nuclei, eosinophilic cytoplasm, acellular cavities) was significantly attenuated in DHT-treated reconstructs that displayed increased immunohistochemical staining for Nrf2 and γ-GCS together with the elevation of total glutathione levels. Taken together, our data suggest the feasibility of achieving tanshinone-based cutaneous Nrf2-activation and photoprotection.
Graphical abstract
Highlights
•Tanshinones are phenanthrenequinone-based Nrf2 inducers active in human skin cells.•Tanshinones upregulate Nrf2 target gene expression with the elevation of glutathione.•Dihydrotanshinone protects cultured human skin cells against solar simulated UV.•Dihydrotanshinone protects reconstructed human skin against acute photodamage.
doi:10.1016/j.redox.2013.10.004
PMCID: PMC3836278  PMID: 24273736
CHX, cycloheximide; CT, cryptotanshinone; DHT, dihydrotanshinone; DMEM, Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium; γ-GCS, gamma-glutamate-cysteine ligase; H&E, hematoxylin and eosin; HMOX1, heme oxygenase-1; IHC, immunohistochemistry; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide; NQO1, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1; Nrf2, nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SF, sulforaphane; SLL, solar simulated UV light; T-I, tanshinone I; T-II-A, tanshinone IIA; UVA, ultraviolet; UVB, ultraviolet B; Tanshinone I; Dihydrotanshinone; Nrf2; Solar simulated ultraviolet light; Skin photoprotection

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