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author:("Wu, tongue")
1.  Oxidative Stress, Mammospheres and Nrf2 – New Implication for Breast Cancer Therapy? 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2014;54(11):1494-1502.
Mammosphere culture of breast cancer cell lines is an important approach used for enrichment of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which exhibit high tumorigenicity and chemoresistance features. Evidence shows that CSCs maintain lower ROS levels due to elevated expression of ROS-scavenging molecules and antioxidative enzymes, which favors the survival of the SLCs and their chemoresistance. The transcription factor NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) has emerged as the master regulator of cellular redox homeostasis, by up-regulating antioxidant response element (ARE)-bearing genes products. Although Nrf2 has long-term been regarded as a beneficial defense mechanism, accumulating studies have revealed the “dark side” of Nrf2. High constitutive levels of Nrf2 was observed in many types of tumors and cancer cell lines promoting their resistance to chemotherapeutics. In this study, we report a high expression of Nrf2 and its target genes in mammospheres, compared to corresponding adherent cells. In MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 mammmosphere cells, the Nrf2-mediated cellular protective response is significantly elevated, which is associated with increased resistance to taxol and anchorage-independent growth. Brusatol, an inhibitor of the Nrf2 pathway, suppressed the protein level of Nrf2 and its target genes, enhanced intracellular ROS and sensitized mammospheres to taxol and reduced the anchorage-independent growth. These results suggest that mammospheres rely on abnormal up-regulation of Nrf2 to maintain low intracellular ROS levels. Nrf2 inhibitors, such as brusatol, have the potential to be developed into novel adjuvant chemotherapeutic drug combinations, in order to combat refractory tumor initiating CSCs.
PMCID: PMC4697962  PMID: 25154499
Nrf2; cancer stem cell; chemoresistance
2.  Withaferin A Analogs That Target the AAA+ Chaperone p97 
ACS chemical biology  2015;10(8):1916-1924.
Understanding the mode of action (MOA) of many natural products can be puzzling with mechanistic clues that seem to lack a common thread. One such puzzle lies in the evaluation of the antitumor properties of the natural product withaferin A (WFA). A variety of seemingly unrelated pathways have been identified to explain its activity, suggesting a lack of selectivity. We now show that WFA acts as an inhibitor of the chaperone, p97, both in vitro and in cell models in addition to inhibiting the proteasome in vitro. Through medicinal chemistry, we have refined the activity of WFA toward p97 and away from the proteasome. Subsequent studies indicated that these WFA analogs retained p97 activity and cytostatic activity in cell models, suggesting that the modes of action reported for WFA could be connected by proteostasis modulation. Through this endeavor, we highlight how the parallel integration of medicinal chemistry with chemical biology offers a potent solution to one of natures’ intriguing molecular puzzles.
PMCID: PMC4593394  PMID: 26006219
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC4187115  PMID: 25125376
p97/VCP/Cdc48; drug discovery; AAA+; ATPase; natural products
4.  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.
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)
5.  USP15 negatively regulates Nrf2 through deubiquitination of Keap1 
Molecular cell  2013;51(1):68-79.
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.
PMCID: PMC3732832  PMID: 23727018
Nrf2; Keap1; USP15; Cul3; ubiquitination; deubiquitination; antioxidant response; chemoresistance
6.  PALB2 Interacts with KEAP1 To Promote NRF2 Nuclear Accumulation and Function 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(8):1506-1517.
PALB2/FANCN is mutated in breast and pancreatic cancers and Fanconi anemia (FA). It controls the intranuclear localization, stability, and DNA repair function of BRCA2 and links BRCA1 and BRCA2 in DNA homologous recombination repair and breast cancer suppression. Here, we show that PALB2 directly interacts with KEAP1, an oxidative stress sensor that binds and represses the master antioxidant transcription factor NRF2. PALB2 shares with NRF2 a highly conserved ETGE-type KEAP1 binding motif and can effectively compete with NRF2 for KEAP1 binding. PALB2 promotes NRF2 accumulation and function in the nucleus and lowers the cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) level. In addition, PALB2 also regulates the rate of NRF2 export from the nucleus following induction. Our findings identify PALB2 as a regulator of cellular redox homeostasis and provide a new link between oxidative stress and the development of cancer and FA.
PMCID: PMC3318596  PMID: 22331464
7.  KPNA6 (Importin α7)-Mediated Nuclear Import of Keap1 Represses the Nrf2-Dependent Antioxidant Response ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(9):1800-1811.
The transcription factor Nrf2 has emerged as a master regulator of cellular redox homeostasis. As an adaptive response to oxidative stress, Nrf2 activates the transcription of a battery of genes encoding antioxidants, detoxification enzymes, and xenobiotic transporters by binding the cis-antioxidant response element in the promoter regions of genes. The magnitude and duration of inducible Nrf2 signaling is delicately controlled at multiple levels by Keap1, which targets Nrf2 for redox-sensitive ubiquitin-mediated degradation in the cytoplasm and exports Nrf2 from the nucleus. However, it is not clear how Keap1 gains access to the nucleus. In this study, we show that Keap1 is constantly shuttling between the nucleus and the cytoplasm under physiological conditions. The nuclear import of Keap1 requires its C-terminal Kelch domain and is independent of Nrf1 and Nrf2. We have determined that importin α7, also known as karyopherin α6 (KPNA6), directly interacts with the Kelch domain of Keap1. Overexpression of KPNA6 facilitates Keap1 nuclear import and attenuates Nrf2 signaling, whereas knockdown of KPNA6 slows down Keap1 nuclear import and enhances the Nrf2-mediated adaptive response induced by oxidative stress. Furthermore, KPNA6 accelerates the clearance of Nrf2 protein from the nucleus during the postinduction phase, therefore promoting restoration of the Nrf2 protein to basal levels. These findings demonstrate that KPNA6-mediated Keap1 nuclear import plays an essential role in modulating the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response and maintaining cellular redox homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3133232  PMID: 21383067
8.  A Noncanonical Mechanism of Nrf2 Activation by Autophagy Deficiency: Direct Interaction between Keap1 and p62▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(13):3275-3285.
In response to stress, cells can utilize several cellular processes, such as autophagy, which is a bulk-lysosomal degradation pathway, to mitigate damages and increase the chances of cell survival. Deregulation of autophagy causes upregulation of p62 and the formation of p62-containing aggregates, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The Nrf2-Keap1 pathway functions as a critical regulator of the cell's defense mechanism against oxidative stress by controlling the expression of many cellular protective proteins. Under basal conditions, Nrf2 is ubiquitinated by the Keap1-Cul3-E3 ubiquitin ligase complex and targeted to the 26S proteasome for degradation. Upon induction, the activity of the E3 ubiquitin ligase is inhibited through the modification of cysteine residues in Keap1, resulting in the stabilization and activation of Nrf2. In this current study, we identified the direct interaction between p62 and Keap1 and the residues required for the interaction have been mapped to 349-DPSTGE-354 in p62 and three arginines in the Kelch domain of Keap1. Accumulation of endogenous p62 or ectopic expression of p62 sequesters Keap1 into aggregates, resulting in the inhibition of Keap1-mediated Nrf2 ubiquitination and its subsequent degradation by the proteasome. In contrast, overexpression of mutated p62, which loses its ability to interact with Keap1, had no effect on Nrf2 stability, demonstrating that p62-mediated Nrf2 upregulation is Keap1 dependent. These findings demonstrate that autophagy deficiency activates the Nrf2 pathway in a noncanonical cysteine-independent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2897585  PMID: 20421418
9.  Nrf2 promotes neuronal cell differentiation 
Free radical biology & medicine  2009;47(6):867-879.
The transcription factor Nrf2 has emerged as a master regulator for the endogenous antioxidant response, which is critical in defending cells against environmental insults and in maintaining intracellular redox balance. However, whether Nrf2 has any role in neuronal cell differentiation is largely unknown. In this report, we have examined the effects of Nrf2 on cell differentiation using a neuroblastoma cell line, SH-SY5Y. Retinoic acid (RA) and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), two well-studied inducers for neuronal differentiation, are able to induce Nrf2 and its target gene NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) in a dose- and time- dependent manner. RA-induced Nrf2 up-regulation is accompanied by neurite outgrowth and an induction of two neuronal differentiation markers, neurofilament-M (NF-M) and microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP-2). Overexpression of Nrf2 in SH-SY5Y cells promotes neuronal differentiation whereas inhibition of endogenous Nrf2 expression inhibited neuronal differentiation. More remarkably, the positive role of Nrf2 in neuronal differentiation was verified ex vivo in primary neuron culture. Primary neurons isolated from Nrf2-null mice showed a retarded progress in differentiation, compared to that from wild-type mice. Collectively, our data demonstrate a novel role for Nrf2 in promoting neuronal cell differentiation, which will open new perspectives for therapeutic uses of Nrf2 activators in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2748111  PMID: 19573594
Nrf2; Keap1; Oxidative Stress; Neuronal differentiation; SH-SY5Y; NQO1

Results 1-9 (9)