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1.  Rtp801, a suppressor of mTOR signaling, is an essential mediator of cigarette smoke – induced pulmonary injury and emphysema 
Nature medicine  2010;16(7):767-773.
Rtp801, a stress – related protein triggered by adverse environmental conditions, inhibits mTOR and enhances oxidative stress – dependent cell death. We postulated that Rtp801 acts as potential amplifying switch in the development of cigarette smoke – induced lung injury, leading to emphysema. Rtp801 was overexpressed in human emphysematous lungs and in lungs of mice exposed to cigarette smoke. The upregulation of Rtp801 expression by cigarette smoke in the lung relied on oxidative stress – dependent activation of the CCAAT response element. Rtp801 was necessary and sufficient for NF – κ B activation in cultured cells and, when forcefully expressed in mouse lungs, it promoted NF – kB activation, alveolar inflammation, oxidative stress, and apoptosis of alveolar septal cells. On the other hand, Rtp801 − / − mice were markedly protected against acute cigarette smoke – induced lung injury, partly via increased mTOR signaling, and, when exposed chronically, against emphysema. Our data support the notion that Rtp801 may represent an important molecular sensor and mediator of lung injury to cigarette smoke.
PMCID: PMC3956129  PMID: 20473305
Rtp801; cigarette smoke; oxidative stress; apoptosis; inflammation; NF –κB; rapamycin
2.  NRF2-mediated Notch pathway activation enhances hematopoietic reconstitution following myelosuppressive radiation 
A nuclear disaster may result in exposure to potentially lethal doses of ionizing radiation (IR). Hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome (H-ARS) is characterized by severe myelosuppression, which increases the risk of infection, bleeding, and mortality. Here, we determined that activation of nuclear factor erythroid-2–related factor 2 (NRF2) signaling enhances hematopoietic stem progenitor cell (HSPC) function and mitigates IR-induced myelosuppression and mortality. Augmenting NRF2 signaling in mice, either by genetic deletion of the NRF2 inhibitor Keap1 or by pharmacological NRF2 activation with 2-trifluoromethyl-2′-methoxychalone (TMC), enhanced hematopoietic reconstitution following bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Strikingly, even 24 hours after lethal IR exposure, oral administration of TMC mitigated myelosuppression and mortality in mice. Furthermore, TMC administration to irradiated transgenic Notch reporter mice revealed activation of Notch signaling in HSPCs and enhanced HSPC expansion by increasing Jagged1 expression in BM stromal cells. Administration of a Notch inhibitor ablated the effects of TMC on hematopoietic reconstitution. Taken together, we identified a mechanism by which NRF2-mediated Notch signaling improves HSPC function and myelosuppression following IR exposure. Our data indicate that targeting this pathway may provide a countermeasure against the damaging effects of IR exposure.
PMCID: PMC3904618  PMID: 24463449
3.  Oxidized phospholipids impair pulmonary antibacterial defenses: Evidence in mice exposed to cigarette smoke 
Patients with COPD are associated with poor pulmonary anti-bacterial innate defenses, which increase the risk for frequent acute exacerbations caused by bacterial infection. Despite elevated numbers of phagocytes (macrophages and neutrophils), airways of patients with COPD show stable bacterial colonization. A defect in the phagocytic ability of alveolar macrophages (AMs) is one of the primary reasons for failure to clear the invading bacteria in airways of smokers and COPD patients and also in mice exposed to cigarette smoke (CS). Oxidative stress, as a result of CS exposure is implicated; however, the factors or mediators that inhibit phagocytic activity of AMs in lungs of smokers remain unclear. In the current study, we provide evidence that accumulation of oxidized phospholipids (Ox-PLs) mediate inhibition of phagocytic function of AMs in CS-exposed mice. Mice exposed to 6 months of CS showed impaired bacterial phagocytosis and clearance by AMs and elevated levels of Ox-PLs in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), compared to mice exposed to room air. Intratracheal instillation of oxidized 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphorylcholine (OX-PAPC) inhibited phagocytic activity of AMs and impaired pulmonary bacterial clearance in mice. In vitro studies demonstrated that exposure of J774 macrophages to OX-PAPC inhibited bacterial phagocytosis and clearance. However, pre-treatment of OX-PAPC with the monoclonal antibody EO6, which specifically binds to oxidized phospholipid but not native phospholipid, abolished OX-PAPC induced inhibition of bacterial phagocytosis and clearance. Incubation of BALF retrieved from CS-exposed mice impaired bacterial phagocytosis by J774 macrophages, which was abolished by pre-treatment of BALF with the EO6 antibody. In conclusion, our study shows that Ox-PLs generated following chronic CS exposure could play a crucial role in inhibiting phagocytic function of AMs and thus impair pulmonary anti-bacterial innate defenses in CS-exposed mice. Therapeutic approaches that augment pulmonary antioxidant defenses could be beneficial in reducing oxidative stress-driven impairment of phagocytosis by AMs in smokers and COPD patients.
PMCID: PMC3495329  PMID: 22935414
COPD; macrophages; oxidized phospholipids; bacteria; phagocytosis; cigarette smoke
4.  Experimental Therapeutics of Nrf2 as a Target for Prevention of Bacterial Exacerbations in COPD 
A growing body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress plays a central role in the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic oxidative stress caused by cigarette smoke generates damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), such as oxidatively or nitrosatively modified proteins and extracellular matrix fragments, which induce abnormal airway inflammation by activating innate and adaptive immune responses. Furthermore, oxidative stress–induced histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) inactivity is implicated in amplifying inflammatory responses and corticosteroid resistance in COPD. Oxidative stress also mediates disruption of innate immune defenses, which is associated with acute exacerbation of COPD. Host defense transcription factor Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) regulates a multifaceted cytoprotective response to counteract oxidative stress–induced pathological injuries. A decrease in Nrf2 signaling is associated with the progression of diseases. Recent evidence indicates that targeting Nrf2 can be a novel therapy to mitigate inflammation, improve innate antibacterial defenses, and restore corticosteroid responses in patients with COPD.
PMCID: PMC3359107  PMID: 22550241
COPD; Nrf2; bacteria; exacerbation; therapeutics
5.  Enhancing Nrf2 Pathway by Disruption of Keap1 in Myeloid Leukocytes Protects against Sepsis 
Rationale: Sepsis syndrome is characterized by inappropriate amplified systemic inflammatory response and bacteremia that promote multiorgan failure and mortality. Nuclear factor–erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) regulates a pleiotropic cytoprotective defense program including antioxidants and protects against several inflammatory disorders by inhibiting oxidative tissue injuries. However, the role of enhanced Nrf2 activity in modulating innate immune responses to microbial infection and pathogenesis of sepsis is unclear.
Objectives: To determine whether Nrf2 in myeloid leukocytes alters inflammatory response and protects against sepsis.
Methods: Mice with deletion of Nrf2 or kelch-like ECH-associated protein (Keap1) in myeloid leukocyte cells and respective floxed controls were subjected to cecal ligation and puncture–induced sepsis and were assessed for survival, organ injury, systemic inflammation, and bacteremia. Using LPS-stimulated peritoneal macrophages, Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 surface trafficking and downstream signaling events were analyzed.
Measurements and Main Results: Mortality, organ injury, circulating levels of inflammatory mediators, and bacteremia were markedly reduced in LysM-Keap1−/− compared with respective floxed controls (Keap1f/f or Nrf2f/f) and significantly elevated in LysM-Nrf2−/− mice after cecal ligation and puncture. Peritoneal macrophages from septic LysM-Keap1−/− mice showed a greater bacterial phagocytic activity compared with LysM-Nrf2−/− and floxed controls. LPS stimulation resulted in greater reactive oxygen species–induced cell surface transport of TLR4 from trans-Golgi network and subsequent TLR4 downstream signaling (recruitment of MYD88 and TRIF, phosphorylation of IkB and IRF3, and cytokine expression) in macrophages of LysM-Nrf2−/− compared with LysM-Keap1−/− mice and floxed controls.
Conclusions: Our study shows that Nrf2 acts as a critical immunomodulator in leukocytes, controls host inflammatory response to bacterial infection, and protects against sepsis.
PMCID: PMC3208662  PMID: 21799073
Nrf2; Keap1; sepsis; antioxidants; inflammation
6.  Prolonged sulforaphane treatment does not enhance tumorigenesis in oncogenic K-ras and xenograft mouse models of lung cancer 
Sulforaphane (SFN), an activator of nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (Nrf2), is a promising chemopreventive agent which is undergoing clinical trial for several diseases. Studies have indicated that there is gain of Nrf2 function in lung cancer and other solid tumors because of mutations in the inhibitor Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1). More recently, several oncogenes have been shown to activate Nrf2 signaling as the main prosurvival pathway mediating ROS detoxification, senescence evasion, and neoplastic transformation. Thus, it is important to determine if there is any risk of enhanced lung tumorigenesis associated with prolonged administration of SFN using mouse models of cancer.
Materials and Methods:
We evaluated the effect of prolonged SFN treatment on oncogenic K-ras (K-rasLSL-G12D)-driven lung tumorigenesis. One week post mutant-K-ras expression, mice were treated with SFN (0.5 mg, 5 d/wk) for 3 months by means of a nebulizer. Fourteen weeks after mutant K-ras expression (K-rasLSL-G12D), mice were sacrificed, and lung sections were screened for neoplastic foci. Expression of Nrf2-dependent genes was measured using real time RT-PCR. We also determined the effect of prolonged SFN treatment on the growth of preclinical xenograft models using human A549 (with mutant K-ras and Keap1 allele) and H1975 [with mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) allele] nonsmall cell lung cancer cells.
Systemic SFN administration did not promote the growth of K-rasLSL-G12D-induced lung tumors and had no significant effect on the growth of A549 and H1975 established tumor xenografts in nude mice. Interestingly, localized delivery of SFN significantly attenuated the growth of A549 tumors in nude mice, suggesting an Nrf2-independent antitumorigenic activity of SFN.
Our results demonstrate that prolonged SFN treatment does not promote lung tumorigenesis in various mouse models of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3424666  PMID: 22919281
EGFR; Keap1; K-ras; lung cancer; Nrf2; sulforaphane
7.  Novel Chalcone Derivatives as Potent Nrf2 Activators in Mice and Human Lung Epithelial Cells 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(12):4147-4159.
Nrf2-mediated activation of antioxidant response element is a central part of molecular mechanisms governing the protective function of phase II detoxification and antioxidant enzymes against carcinogenesis, oxidative stress and inflammation. Nrf2 is sequestered in the cytoplasm by its repressor, Keap1. We have designed and synthesized novel chalcone derivatives as Nrf2 activators. The potency of these compounds was measured by the expression of Nrf2 dependent antioxidant genes, GCLM, NQO1 and HO1, in human lung epithelial cells; while the cytotoxicity was analyzed using MTT assay. In vivo potency of identified lead compounds to activate Nrf2 was evaluated using mouse model. Our studies showed 2-trifluoromethyl-2’-methoxychalone (2b) to be a potent activator of Nrf2, both, in vitro and in mice. Additional experiments showed that the activation of Nrf2 by this compound is independent of reactive oxygen species or redox changes. We have discussed a quantitative structure-activity relationship and proposed a possible mechanism of Nrf2 activation.
PMCID: PMC3212436  PMID: 21539383
8.  Upregulation of TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, and IRAK-2 Expression During ML-1 Cell Differentiation to Macrophages: Role in the Potentiation of Cellular Responses to LPS and LTA 
ISRN Oncology  2012;2012:641246.
12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) induces the differentiation of human myeloid ML-1 cells to macrophages. In the current study, the expression, responsiveness, and regulation of toll-like receptors (TLRs) in TPA-induced ML-1-derived macrophages were investigated. We have found that TPA-induced differentiation of ML-1 cells was accompanied by the upregulation of TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, and CD14 expression at both the mRNA and protein levels. Interestingly, TLR1 and TLR4 protein expression on ML-1 cells could be blocked by pretreatment with U0126, suggesting the role of an Erk1/2-induced differentiation signal in this process. In addition, the expression of IRAK-2, a key member of the TLR/IRAK-2/NF-κB-dependent signaling cascade was also induced in response to TPA. Accordingly, we demonstrated an increased cellular release of inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and various interleukins) upon stimulation with LPS and LTA ligands for TLR4 and TLR2, respectively. Furthermore, using luminol-dependent chemiluminescence, addition of LPS and LTA induces a sustained DPI-inhibitable generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the differentiated ML-1 cells. Together, these data suggest that the increase in the responsiveness of TPA-treated ML-1 cells to LPS and LTA occurs in response to the upregulation of their respective receptors as well as an induction of the IRAK-2 gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3364600  PMID: 22685674
9.  Denitrosylation of HDAC2 by targeting Nrf2 restores glucocorticosteroid sensitivity in macrophages from COPD patients 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(11):4289-4302.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is caused primarily by cigarette smoking, is a major health problem worldwide. The progressive decline in lung function that occurs in COPD is a result of persistent inflammation of the airways and destruction of the lung parenchyma. Despite the key role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of COPD, treatment with corticosteroids — normally highly effective antiinflammatory drugs — has little therapeutic benefit. This corticosteroid resistance is largely caused by inactivation of histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2), which is critical for the transrepressive activity of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) that mediates the antiinflammatory effect of corticosteroids. Here, we show that in alveolar macrophages from patients with COPD, S-nitrosylation of HDAC2 is increased and that this abolishes its GR-transrepression activity and promotes corticosteroid insensitivity. Cys-262 and Cys-274 of HDAC2 were found to be the targets of S-nitrosylation, and exogenous glutathione treatment of macrophages from individuals with COPD restored HDAC2 activity. Treatment with sulforaphane, a small-molecule activator of the transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (NRF2), was also able to denitrosylate HDAC2, restoring dexamethasone sensitivity in alveolar macrophages from patients with COPD. These effects of sulforaphane were glutathione dependent. We conclude that NRF2 is a novel drug target for reversing corticosteroid resistance in COPD and other corticosteroid-resistant inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3204828  PMID: 22005302
10.  NADPH Oxidase-Dependent Reactive Oxygen Species Mediate Amplified TLR4 Signaling and Sepsis-Induced Mortality in Nrf2-deficient Mice 
Sepsis syndrome is characterized by a dysregulated inflammatory response to infection. NADPH oxidase-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS) play significant roles in the pathophysiology of sepsis. We previously showed that disruption of Nrf2, a master regulator of antioxidant defenses, caused a dysregulation of innate immune response that resulted in greater mortality in a polymicrobial sepsis and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) shock model; however, the underlying mechanisms are unclear. In the present study, compared to wild-type (Nrf2+/+) macrophages, we observed greater PKC-induced NADPH oxidase-dependent ROS generation in Nrf2-disrupted (Nrf2−/−) macrophages that was modulated by glutathione (GSH) levels. To address the NADPH oxidase-mediated hyper-inflammatory response and sepsis-induced lung injury and mortality in Nrf2−/− mice, we used double knockout mice lacking Nrf2 and NADPH oxidase subunit, gp91phox (Nrf2−/−//Gp91phox−/−). Compared to Nrf2+/+ macrophages, LPS induced greater activation of TLR4 as evident by TLR4 surface trafficking and downstream recruitment of MYD88 and TRIF in Nrf2−/− macrophages that was diminished by ablation of gp91phox. Similarly, phosphorylation of IκB and IRF3 as well as cytokine expression was markedly higher in Nrf2−/− macrophages, while it was similar in Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/−//Gp91phox−/−. In vivo studies showed greater LPS-induced pulmonary inflammation in Nrf2−/− mice that was significantly reduced by ablation of gp91phox. Furthermore, LPS shock and polymicrobial sepsis induced early and greater mortality in Nrf2−/− mice, while Nrf2−/−//Gp91phox−/− showed prolong survival. Together, these results demonstrate that Nrf2 is essential for the regulation of NADPH oxidase-dependent ROS-mediated TLR4 activation and lethal innate immune response in sepsis.
PMCID: PMC2913313  PMID: 20511556
11.  RNAi mediated silencing of Nrf2 gene expression in non-small cell lung cancer inhibits tumor growth and increases efficacy of chemotherapy 
Cancer research  2008;68(19):7975-7984.
Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor-2 (Nrf2) is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that regulates the expression of electrophile and xenobiotic detoxification enzymes and efflux proteins, which confer cytoprotection against oxidative stress and apoptosis in normal cells. Loss of function mutations in the Nrf2 inhibitor, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein (Keap1), results in constitutive activation of Nrf2 function in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In this study, we demonstrate that constitutive activation of Nrf2 in lung cancer cells promotes tumorigenicity and contributes to chemoresistance by upregulation of glutathione, thioredoxin and the drug efflux pathways involved in detoxification of electrophiles and broad spectrum of drugs. RNAi-mediated reduction of Nrf2 expression in lung cancer cells induces generation of reactive oxygen species, suppresses tumor growth and results in increased sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drug induced cell death in vitro and in vivo. Inhibiting Nrf2 expression using naked siRNA duplexes in combination with carboplatin significantly inhibits tumor growth in a subcutaneous model of lung cancer. Thus, targeting Nrf2 activity in lung cancers, particularly those with Keap1 mutations, could be a promising strategy to inhibit tumor growth and circumvent chemoresistance.
PMCID: PMC3070411  PMID: 18829555
Nrf2; Keap1; lung cancer; drug resistance; ROS; RNAi
12.  Decreased histone deacetylase 2 impairs Nrf2 activation by oxidative stress 
Research highlights
► Nrf2 anti-oxidant function is impaired when HDAC activity is inhibited. ► HDAC inhibition decreases Nrf2 protein stability. ► HDAC2 is involved in reduced Nrf2 stability and both correlate in COPD samples. ► HDAC inhibition increases Nrf2 acetylation.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) plays a crucial role in cellular defence against oxidative stress by inducing the expression of multiple anti-oxidant genes. However, where high levels of oxidative stress are observed, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Nrf2 activity is reduced, although the molecular mechanism for this defect is uncertain. Here, we show that down-regulation of histone deacetylase (HDAC) 2 causes Nrf2 instability, resulting in reduced anti-oxidant gene expression and increase sensitivity to oxidative stress. Although Nrf2 protein was clearly stabilized after hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) stimulation in a bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS2B), Nrf2 stability was decreased and Nrf2 acetylation increased in the presence of an HDAC inhibitor, trichostatin A (TSA). TSA also reduced Nrf2-regulated heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression in these cells, and this was confirmed in acute cigarette-smoke exposed mice in vivo. HDAC2 knock-down by RNA interference resulted in reduced H2O2-induced Nrf2 protein stability and activity in BEAS2B cells, whereas HDAC1 knockdown had no effect. Furthermore, monocyte-derived macrophages obtained from healthy volunteers (non-smokers and smokers) and COPD patients showed a significant correlation between HDAC2 expression and Nrf2 expression (r = 0.92, p < 0.0001). Thus, reduced HDAC2 activity in COPD may account for increased Nrf2 acetylation, reduced Nrf2 stability and impaired anti oxidant defences.
PMCID: PMC3061319  PMID: 21320471
ARE, anti oxidant response element; COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; DJ-1, Parkinson’s disease (PD)-associated protein; HDAC2, histone deacetylase-2; HO-1, heme oxygenase-1; H2O2, hydrogen peroxide; Keap1, Kelch-like ECH associated protein 1; MDM, monocyte-derived macrophage; Nrf2, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2; ROS, reactive oxygen species; TSA, trichostatin A; Oxidative stress; Nrf2; Histone deacetylase 2; Protein stability; Acetylation; COPD
13.  Heightened Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in the Lungs of Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2), an important regulator of lung antioxidant defenses, declines in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, Nrf2 also regulates the proteasome system that degrades damaged and misfolded proteins. Because accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) causes ER stress and ER stress-induced apoptosis, Nrf2 may potentially prevent ER stress-mediated apoptosis in COPD.
Objectives: To determine whether Nrf2-regulated proteasome function affects ER stress-mediated apoptosis in COPD.
Methods: We assessed the expression of Nrf2, Nrf2-dependent proteasomal subunits, proteasomal activity, markers of ER stress, and apoptosis in emphysematous lungs of mice exposed to cigarette smoke (CS) as well as peripheral lung tissues from normal control subjects and patients with COPD.
Measurements and Main Results: Compared with wild-type mice, emphysematous lungs of CS-exposed Nrf2-deficient mice exhibited markedly lower proteasomal activity and elevated markers of ER stress and apoptosis. Furthermore, compared with normal control subjects, lungs of patients with mild and advanced COPD showed a marked decrease in the expression of Nrf2-regulated proteasomal subunits and total proteasomal activity. However, they were associated with greater levels of ER stress and apoptosis markers. In vitro studies have demonstrated that enhancing proteasomal activity in Beas2B cells either by sulforaphane, an activator of Nrf2, or overexpression of Nrf2-regulated proteasomal subunit PSMB6, significantly inhibited cigarette smoke condensate (CSC)-induced ER stress and cell death.
Conclusions: Impaired Nrf2 signaling causes significant decline in proteasomal activity and heightens ER stress response in lungs of patients with COPD and CS-exposed mice. Accordingly, pharmacological approaches that augment Nrf2 activity may protect against COPD progression by both up-regulating antioxidant defenses and relieving ER stress.
PMCID: PMC2796732  PMID: 19797762
Nrf2; proteasome system; endoplasmic reticulum stress; unfolded protein response; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease lungs
14.  Nrf2 is a Critical Modulator of the Innate Immune Response in a Model of Uveitis 
Free radical biology & medicine  2009;47(3):300-306.
Uveitis is an inflammatory condition that can lead to blindness. It is therefore, important to understand the pathophysiology on which to develop targeted therapy. Herein, we tested whether the oxidant-responsive transcription factor Nrf2 is involved in regulating the innate immune response and oxidative damage in the LPS uveitis model. With Dihydroethidium staining, intraperitoneally injected LPS increased reactive oxygen species in the retina and iris-ciliary body of Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice. After LPS injection, ICAM-1, IL-6, TNF-α, COX-2, iNOS, and MCP-1 mRNA were increased more in the retina and iris-ciliary body of Nrf2−/− than Nrf2+/+ mice. NQO-1 and GCLM, two Nrf2 responsive anti-oxidant enzymes, had reduced expression in Nrf2+/+ retinas after LPS injection, but no change in expression in Nrf2−/− mice. The number of FITC-con A labeled leukocytes adherent to the retinal vascular endothelium increased after LPS treatment in both Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice compared to control injections, with the more adherent leukocytes in Nrf2−/− than Nrf2+/+ mice. Pretreatment with the Nrf2 activator 1-(2-cyano-3-,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl)imidazole, increased antioxidant gene expression in the retina, reduced inflammatory mediator expression, and reduced leukocyte adherence to retinal vasculature after LPS treatment in Nrf2+/+ mice, but had no effect on Nrf2−/− mice. Treatment targeting the Nrf2 pathway may be new therapy for uveitis.
PMCID: PMC2700746  PMID: 19410644
Adhesion molecules; Cytokines; Lipopolysaccharide (LPS); Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (Nrf2); Rodent; Transcription factors; Transgenic/knockout mice; triterpenoids; uveitis
15.  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
16.  Redox-Regulation of ERK 1/2-Directed Phosphatase by Reactive Oxygen Species 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;216(1):276-285.
Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2 activity signals myeloid cell differentiation induced by 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Previously, we reported that Erk1/2 activation (phosphorylation) induced by TPA required reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a second messenger. Here, we hypothesized that ROS generated in response to TPA inhibit Erk1/2-directed phosphatase activity, which leads to an increase phosphorylation of Erk1/2 to signal p21WAF1/Cip1-mediated growth arrest in ML-1 cells. Incubation of ML-1 cells with TPA resulted in a marked accumulation of phosphorylated Erk1/2, and is subsequent to H2O2 generation. Interestingly, post-TPA-treatment with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) stimulated a marked and a rapid dephosphorylation of Erk1/2, suggesting a regeneration of Erk1/2-directed phospahatase activity by NAC. ROS generation in ML-1 cells induced by TPA was suggested to occur in the mitochondrial electron transport chain (METC) based on the following observations: (i) undifferentiated ML-1 cells not only lack p67-phox and but also express a low level of p47-phox key components required for NADPH oxidase enzymatic activity, (ii) pretreatment with DPI, an inhibitor of NADH- and NADPH-dependent enzymes, or rhein, an inhibitor of complex I, blocked the ROS generation, and (iii) examination of the microarray analysis data and Western blot analysis data revealed an induction of MnSOD expression at both mRNA and protein levels in response to TPA. MnSOD is a key member of the mitochondrial defense system against mitochondrial-derived superoxide. Together, this study suggested that TPA stimulated ROS generation as a second messenger to activate Erk1/2 via a redox-mediated inhibition of Erk1/2-directed phosphatase in ML-1 cells.
PMCID: PMC2587147  PMID: 18270969
17.  Disruption of Nrf2, a Key Inducer of Antioxidant Defenses, Attenuates ApoE-Mediated Atherosclerosis in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3791.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are two critical factors that drive the formation of plaques in atherosclerosis. Nrf2 is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that upregulates a battery of antioxidative genes and cytoprotective enzymes that constitute the cellular response to oxidative stress. Our previous studies have shown that disruption of Nrf2 in mice (Nrf2−/−) causes increased susceptibility to pulmonary emphysema, asthma and sepsis due to increased oxidative stress and inflammation. Here we have tested the hypothesis that disruption of Nrf2 in mice causes increased atherosclerosis.
Principal Findings
To investigate the role of Nrf2 in the development of atherosclerosis, we crossed Nrf2−/− mice with apoliporotein E-deficient (ApoE−/−) mice. ApoE−/− and ApoE−/− Nrf2−/− mice were fed an atherogenic diet for 20 weeks, and plaque area was assessed in the aortas. Surprisingly, ApoE−/− Nrf2−/− mice exhibited significantly smaller plaque area than ApoE−/− controls (11.5% vs 29.5%). This decrease in plaque area observed in ApoE−/− Nrf2−/− mice was associated with a significant decrease in uptake of modified low density lipoproteins (AcLDL) by isolated macrophages from ApoE−/− Nrf2−/− mice. Furthermore, atherosclerotic plaques and isolated macrophages from ApoE−/− Nrf2−/− mice exhibited decreased expression of the scavenger receptor CD36.
Nrf2 is pro-atherogenic in mice, despite its antioxidative function. The net pro-atherogenic effect of Nrf2 may be mediated via positive regulation of CD36. Our data demonstrates that the potential effects of Nrf2-targeted therapies on cardiovascular disease need to be investigated.
PMCID: PMC2582492  PMID: 19023427
18.  Role of Reactive Oxygen Species in Modulation of Nrf2 following Ischemic Reperfusion Injury 
Neuroscience  2007;147(1):53-59.
The transcriptional factor Nrf2 has a unique role in various physiological stress conditions, but its contribution to ischemia/reperfusion injury has not been fully explored. Therefore, wildtype (WT) and Nrf2 knockout (Nrf2-/-) mice were subjected to 90-min occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) followed by 24-h reperfusion to elucidate Nrf2 contribution in protecting against ischemia/reperfusion injury. Infarct volume, represented as percent of hemispheric volume, was significantly (P<0.05) larger in Nrf2-/- mice than in WT mice (30.8 ± 6.1% vs 17.0 ± 5.1). Furthermore, neurological deficit was significantly greater in the Nrf2-/- mice. To examine whether neuronal protection was mediated by Nrf2, neurons were treated with various compounds to induce excitotoxic or oxidative stress. Translocation of Nrf2 into the nucleus was increased by the free-radical donor tert-butylhydroperoxide, but not by glutamate or NMDA. In addition, a common Nrf2 inducer, tert-butylhydroquinone, significantly attenuated neuronal cell death induced by tert-butylhydroperoxide (83.6 ± 1.6 vs 62.0 ± 7.7%) but not as substantially as when excitotoxicity was induced by NMDA (91.9 ± 1.6 vs 79.3 ± 3.3%) or glutamate (87.8 ± 1.5 vs 80.2 ± 2.6%). The results suggest that Nrf2 reduces ischemic brain injury by protecting against oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC1961622  PMID: 17507167
free radicals; MCA occlusion/reperfusion; NF-E2-related factor 2; stroke
19.  Preclinical Evaluation of Targeting the Nrf2 Pathway by Triterpenoids (CDDO-Im and CDDO-Me) for Protection from LPS-Induced Inflammatory Response and Reactive Oxygen Species in Human Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells and Neutrophils 
Antioxidants & redox signaling  2007;9(11):1963-1970.
Sepsis is characterized by an inappropriate host immune-inflammatory response and sustained oxidative damage. Nrf2, a bZIP oxidant-responsive transcription factor, regulates a battery of cytoprotective genes including antioxidants and maintains cellular redox homeostasis. Mouse studies have demonstrated a critical role of Nrf2 in improving survival during sepsis. This preclinical ex vivo study using neutrophils and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as a surrogate cells evaluates the efficacy of CDDO-Im and CDDO-Me [imidazole and methyl ester derivative of 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO)] to activate the Nrf2 pathway and protect from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory response in humans. CDDO-Im treatment significantly induced Nrf2–dependent antioxidative genes (HO-1, GCLC, GCLM, and NQO1) in PBMCs isolated from six normal subjects. CDDO-Im increased nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 protein. Pretreatment of PBMC by CDDO-Im significantly attenuated LPS-induced cytokine expression. Similar increases in levels of antioxidant genes and suppression of LPS-induced cytokine expression was observed after CDDO-Me pretreatment. CDDO-Im also greatly inhibited LPS, fMLP, TNF-α, and TPA-induced ROS generation in neutrophils. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that activation of the Nrf2-dependent antioxidative pathway by CDDO-Im or CDDO-Me protects against the LPS-induced inflammatory response and suggest that they can be potential therapeutic candidates for intervening sepsis syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2396226  PMID: 17822364
20.  Nrf2 dependent protection from LPS induced inflammatory response and mortality by CDDO-Imidazolide 
Sepsis induced lethality is characterized by amplified host innate immune response. Nrf2, a bZIP transcription factor regulates a battery of cellular antioxidative genes and maintains cellular redox homeostasis. This study demonstrates that increasing Nrf2 activity by a potent small molecule activator, CDDO-Im (1-[2-cyano-3-,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl]imidazole), protects from deregulation of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced innate immune response. In response to LPS stimuli, nrf2-deficient (nrf2 −/−) peritoneal neutrophils showed increased NADPH oxidase dependent ROS generation, proinflammatory cytokines (Tnf-α and Il-6) and chemokines (Mip2 and Mcp-1) relative to wild-type (nrf2 +/+) cells. Pretreatment of peritoneal neturophils with CDDO-Im induced antioxidative genes (Ho-1, Gclc, Gclm and Nqo1) and attenuated LPS induced ROS generation as well as expression of proinflammatory cytokines exclusively in nrf2 +/+ neutrophils but not in nrf2 −/− cells. In corroboration with in vitro studies, pretreatment with CDDO-Im induced Nrf2 dependent antioxidative genes, attenuated LPS induced proinflammatory cytokine expression and decreased septic shock induced mortality specifically in the nrf2 +/+ mice. In conclusion, the results suggest that Nrf2 is associated with oxidative regulation of LPS induced innate immune response in neutrophils. Activation of Nrf2 dependent compensatory antioxidative pathways by CDDO-Im protects from LPS induced inflammatory response and mortality due to septic shock.
PMCID: PMC2293275  PMID: 17097057
Nrf2; CDDO-im; neutrophils; macrophages; innate immune response; antioxidant; ROS; LPS; Septic shock
21.  Glutathione Peroxidase 2, the Major Cigarette Smoke–Inducible Isoform of GPX in Lungs, Is Regulated by Nrf2 
Disruption of NF-E2–related factor (Nrf2), a redox-sensitive basic leucine zipper transcription factor, causes early-onset and more severe emphysema due to chronic cigarette smoke. Nrf2 determines the susceptibility of lungs to cigarette smoke–induced emphysema in mice through the transcriptional induction of numerous antioxidant genes. The lungs of Nrf2−/− mice have higher oxidative stress as evident from the increased levels of lipid peroxidation (4-hydroxy-2-nonenal) and oxidative DNA damage (7,8-dihydro-8-Oxo-2′deoxyguanosine) in response to cigarette smoke. Glutathione peroxidases (GPX) are the primary antioxidant enzymes that scavenge hydrogen peroxide and organic hydroperoxides. Among the five GPX isoforms, expression of GPX2 was significantly induced at both mRNA and protein levels in the lungs of Nrf2+/+ mice, in response to cigarette smoke. Activation of Nrf2 by specific knock down of the cytosolic inhibitor of Nrf2, Keap1, by small inhibitory RNA (siRNA) upregulated the expression of GPx2, whereas Nrf2 siRNA down-regulated the expression of GPX2 in lung epithelial cells. An ARE sequence located in the 5′ promoter–flanking region of exon 1 that is highly conserved between mouse, rat, and human was identified. Mutation of this ARE core sequence completely abolished the activity of promoter–reporter gene construct. The binding of Nrf2 to the GPX2 antioxidant response element was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipation, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, and site-directed mutagenesis. This study shows that GPX2 is the major oxidative stress–inducible cellular GPX isoform in the lungs, and that its basal as well as inducible expression is dependent on Nrf2.
PMCID: PMC2643293  PMID: 16794261
antioxidant response element; cigarette smoke; emphysema; GPX2; Nrf2
22.  Role of Nrf2 in Protection against Intracerebral Hemorrhage Injury in Mice 
Free radical biology & medicine  2007;43(3):408-414.
Nrf2 is a key transcriptional factor for antioxidant response element (ARE)-regulated genes. While its beneficial role has been described for stroke, its contribution to intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH)-induced early brain injury remains to be determined. Using wildtype (WT) and Nrf2 knockout (Nrf2−/−) mice, the role of Nrf2 in ICH induced by intracerebral injection of collagenase was investigated. The results showed that injury volume was significantly larger in Nrf2−/− mice than in WT controls 24 h after induction of ICH (p < 0.05), an outcome that correlated with neurological deficits. This exacerbation of brain injury in Nrf2−/− mice was also associated with an increase in leukocyte infiltration, production of reactive oxygen species, DNA damage, and cytochrome c release during the critical early phase of the post-ICH period. In combination, these results suggest that Nrf2 reduces ICH-induced early brain injury, possibly by providing protection against leukocyte-mediated free radical oxidative damage.
PMCID: PMC2039918  PMID: 17602956
DNA damage; Free radicals; Inflammation; NF-E2-related factor 2; Reactive oxygen species
23.  Dysfunctional KEAP1–NRF2 Interaction in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e420.
Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (NRF2) is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that positively regulates the expression of genes encoding antioxidants, xenobiotic detoxification enzymes, and drug efflux pumps, and confers cytoprotection against oxidative stress and xenobiotics in normal cells. Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1) negatively regulates NRF2 activity by targeting it to proteasomal degradation. Increased expression of cellular antioxidants and xenobiotic detoxification enzymes has been implicated in resistance of tumor cells against chemotherapeutic drugs.
Methods and Findings
Here we report a systematic analysis of the KEAP1 genomic locus in lung cancer patients and cell lines that revealed deletion, insertion, and missense mutations in functionally important domains of KEAP1 and a very high percentage of loss of heterozygosity at 19p13.2, suggesting that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 in lung cancer is a common event. Sequencing of KEAP1 in 12 cell lines and 54 non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) samples revealed somatic mutations in KEAP1 in a total of six cell lines and ten tumors at a frequency of 50% and 19%, respectively. All the mutations were within highly conserved amino acid residues located in the Kelch or intervening region domain of the KEAP1 protein, suggesting that these mutations would likely abolish KEAP1 repressor activity. Evaluation of loss of heterozygosity at 19p13.2 revealed allelic losses in 61% of the NSCLC cell lines and 41% of the tumor samples. Decreased KEAP1 activity in cancer cells induced greater nuclear accumulation of NRF2, causing enhanced transcriptional induction of antioxidants, xenobiotic metabolism enzymes, and drug efflux pumps.
This is the first study to our knowledge to demonstrate that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 is a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC. Loss of KEAP1 function leading to constitutive activation of NRF2-mediated gene expression in cancer suggests that tumor cells manipulate the NRF2 pathway for their survival against chemotherapeutic agents.
Biallelic inactivation ofKEAP1, a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC, is associated with activation of the NRF2 pathway which leads to expression of genes that contribute to resistance against chemotherapeutic drugs.
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. More than 150,000 people in the US alone die every year from this disease, which can be split into two basic types—small cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Four out of five lung cancers are NSCLCs, but both types are mainly caused by smoking. Exposure to chemicals in smoke produces changes (or mutations) in the genetic material of the cells lining the lungs that cause the cells to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. In more than half the people who develop NSCLC, the cancer has spread out of the lungs before it is diagnosed, and therefore can't be removed surgically. Stage IV NSCLC, as this is known, is usually treated with chemotherapy—toxic chemicals that kill the fast-growing cancer cells. However, only 2% of people with stage IV NSCLC are still alive two years after their diagnosis, mainly because their cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy. They do this by making proteins that destroy cancer drugs (detoxification enzymes) or that pump them out of cells (efflux pumps) and by making antioxidants, chemicals that protect cells against the oxidative damage caused by many chemotherapy agents.
Why Was This Study Done?
To improve the outlook for patients with lung cancer, researchers need to discover exactly how cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Detoxification enzymes, efflux pumps, and antioxidants normally protect cells from environmental toxins and from oxidants produced by the chemical processes of life. Their production is regulated by nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2 (NRF2). The activity of this transcription factor (a protein that controls the expression of other proteins) is controlled by the protein Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1). KEAP1 holds NRF2 in the cytoplasm of the cell (the cytoplasm surrounds the cell's nucleus, where the genetic material is stored) when no oxidants are present and targets it for destruction. When oxidants are present, KEAP1 no longer interacts with NRF2, which moves into the nucleus and induces the expression of the proteins that protect the cell against oxidants and toxins. In this study, the researchers investigated whether changes in KEAP1 might underlie the drug resistance seen in lung cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers looked carefully at the gene encoding KEAP1 in tissue taken from lung tumors and in several lung cancer cell lines—tumor cells that have been grown in a laboratory. They found mutations in parts of KEAP1 known to be important for its function in half the cell lines and a fifth of the tumor samples. They also found that about half of the samples had lost part of one copy of the KEAP1 gene—cells usually have two copies of each gene. Five of the six tumors with KEAP1 mutations had also lost one copy of KEAP1—geneticists call this biallelic inactivation. This means that these tumors should have no functional KEAP1. When the researchers checked this by staining the tumors for NRF2, they found that the tumor cells had more NRF2 than normal cells and that it accumulated in the nucleus. In addition, the tumor cells made more detoxification enzymes, efflux proteins, and antioxidants than normal cells. Finally, the researchers showed that lung cancer cells with KEAP1 mutations were more resistant to chemotherapy drugs than normal lung cells were.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that biallelic inactivation of KEAP1 is a frequent genetic alteration in NSCLC and suggest that the loss of KEAP1 activity is one way that lung tumors can increase their NRF2 activity and develop resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. More lung cancer samples need to be examined to confirm this result, and similar studies need to be done in other cancers to see whether loss of KEAP1 activity is a common mechanism by which tumors become resistant to chemotherapy. If such studies confirm that high NRF2 activity (either through mutation or by some other route) is often associated with a poor tumor response to chemotherapy, then the development of NRF2 inhibitors might help to improve treatment outcomes in patients with chemotherapy-resistant tumors.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment
MedlinePlus entries on small cell lung cancer and NSCLC Cancer Research UK information on lung cancer
Wikipedia entries on lung cancer and chemotherapy (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1584412  PMID: 17020408
24.  Nrf2 is a critical regulator of the innate immune response and survival during experimental sepsis 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2006;116(4):984-995.
Host genetic factors that regulate innate immunity determine susceptibility to sepsis. Disruption of nuclear factor-erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2), a basic leucine zipper transcription factor that regulates redox balance and stress response, dramatically increased the mortality of mice in response to endotoxin- and cecal ligation and puncture–induced septic shock. LPS as well as TNF-α stimulus resulted in greater lung inflammation in Nrf2-deficient mice. Temporal analysis of pulmonary global gene expression after LPS challenge revealed augmented expression of large numbers of proinflammatory genes associated with the innate immune response at as early as 30 minutes in lungs of Nrf2-deficient mice, indicating severe immune dysregulation. The expression profile indicated that Nrf2 has a global influence on both MyD88-dependent and -independent signaling. Nrf2-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts showed greater activation of NF-κB and interferon regulatory factor 3 in response to LPS and polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)] stimulus, corroborating the effect of Nrf2 on MyD88-dependent and -independent signaling. Nrf2’s regulation of cellular glutathione and other antioxidants is critical for optimal NF-κB activation in response to LPS and TNF-α. Our study reveals Nrf2 as a novel modifier gene of sepsis that determines survival by mounting an appropriate innate immune response.
PMCID: PMC1421348  PMID: 16585964
25.  Genetic ablation of Nrf2 enhances susceptibility to cigarette smoke–induced emphysema in mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(9):1248-1259.
Although inflammation and protease/antiprotease imbalance have been postulated to be critical in cigarette smoke–induced (CS-induced) emphysema, oxidative stress has been suspected to play an important role in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Susceptibility of the lung to oxidative injury, such as that originating from inhalation of CS, depends largely on its upregulation of antioxidant systems. Nuclear factor, erythroid-derived 2, like 2 (Nrf2) is a redox-sensitive basic leucine zipper protein transcription factor that is involved in the regulation of many detoxification and antioxidant genes. Disruption of the Nrf2 gene in mice led to earlier-onset and more extensive CS-induced emphysema than was found in wild-type littermates. Emphysema in Nrf2-deficient mice exposed to CS for 6 months was associated with more pronounced bronchoalveolar inflammation; with enhanced alveolar expression of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine, a marker of oxidative stress; and with an increased number of apoptotic alveolar septal cells — predominantly endothelial and type II epithelial cells — as compared with wild-type mice. Microarray analysis identified the expression of nearly 50 Nrf2-dependent antioxidant and cytoprotective genes in the lung that may work in concert to counteract CS-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. The responsiveness of the Nrf2 pathway may act as a major determinant of susceptibility to tobacco smoke–induced emphysema by upregulating antioxidant defenses and decreasing lung inflammation and alveolar cell apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC524225  PMID: 15520857

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