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1.  Mechanism of progestin resistance in endometrial precancer/cancer through Nrf2-AKR1C1 pathway 
Oncotarget  2016;7(9):10363-10372.
Progestin resistance is a main obstacle for endometrial precancer/cancer conservative therapy. Therefore, biomarkers to predict progestin resistance and studies to gain a more detailed understanding of the mechanism are needed. The antioxidant Nrf2-AKR1C1 signal pathway exerts chemopreventive activity. However whether it plays a role in progestin resistance has not been explored. In this study, elevated levels of AKR1C1 and Nrf2 were found in progestin-resistant endometrial epithelia, but not in responsive endometrial glands. Exogenous overexpression of Nrf2/AKR1C1 resulted in progestin resistance. Inversely, silencing of Nrf2 or AKR1C1 rendered endometrial cancer cells more susceptible to progestin treatment. Moreover, medroxyprogesterone acetate withdrawal resulted in suppression of Nrf2/AKR1C1 expression accompanied by a reduction of cellular proliferative activity. In addition, brusatol and metformin overcame progestin resistance by down-regulating Nrf2/AKR1C1 expression. Our findings suggest that overexpression of Nrf2 and AKR1C1 in endometrial precancer/cancer may be part of the molecular mechanisms underlying progestin resistance. If validated in a larger cohort, overexpression of Nrf2 and AKR1C1 may prove to be useful biomarkers to predict progestin resistance. Targeting the Nrf2/AKR1C1 pathway may represent a new therapeutic strategy for treatment of endometrial hyperplasia/cancer.
PMCID: PMC4891125  PMID: 26824415
Nrf2; AKR1C1; endometrial cancer; progestin resistance
2.  Nrf2 expression in endometrial serous carcinomas and its precancers 
Endometrial serous carcinoma (ESC) is the most aggressive subtype of endometrial cancer. Its aggressive behavior and poor clinical outcome may be partially attributed to lack of early diagnostic markers and unclear patho-genesis. The transcription factor Erythroid–E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a recently identified protein marker, which plays a role in carcinogenesis as well as responsible for poor prognosis of many human cancers. The aim of this study is to determine the Nrf2 expression in benign endometrium (n=28), endometrial cancers (n=122) as well as their precursor lesions (n=81) trying to see whether Nrf2 has any diagnostic usage and is potentially involved in endometrial carcinogenesis. The level of Nrf2 was evaluated by immunohistochemical (IHC) and verified by using Western blots. Among the malignant cases, Nrf2 was positive in 28 (68%) of 50 ESCs, which was significantly more than in 3 (6%) of 50 endometrioid carcinomas (p < 0.001) and 2 (13%) of 15 clear cell carcinomas (p = 0.001) and other histologic types of endometrial cancers. Among endometrial precursor lesions, both serous endometrial glandular dysplasia (EmGD, 40%) and serous endometrial intraepithelial carcinoma (EIC, 44%) showed a significantly higher Nrf2 expression than that in atypical endometrial hyperplasia or endometrial intraepithelial neoplasia (0%), clear cell EmGD (10%), and clear cell EIC (25%), respectively. We conclude that Nrf2 overexpression is closely associated with endometrial neoplasms with serous differentiation. Alteration of Nrf2 expression may represent one of the early molecular events in ESC carcinogenesis and overexpression of Nrf2 may used as a diagnostic marker in surgical pathology.
PMCID: PMC3016106  PMID: 21228930
Nrf2; endometrial cancer; precancer; endometrial serous carcinoma; endometrial glandular dysplasia
3.  Nrf2 enhances resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, the dark side of Nrf2 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(6):1235-1243.
Drug resistance during chemotherapy is the major obstacle to the successful treatment of many cancers. Here, we report that inhibition of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) may be a promising strategy to combat chemoresistance. Nrf2 is a critical transcription factor regulating a cellular protective response that defends cells against toxic insults from a broad spectrum of chemicals. Under normal conditions, the low constitutive amount of Nrf2 protein is maintained by the Kelch-like ECH-associated protein1 (Keap1)-mediated ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation system. Upon activation, this Keap1-dependent Nrf2 degradation mechanism is quickly inactivated, resulting in accumulation and activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)-dependent cytoprotective genes. Since its discovery, Nrf2 has been viewed as a ‘good’ transcription factor that protects us from many diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the dark side of Nrf2: stable overexpression of Nrf2 resulted in enhanced resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents including cisplatin, doxorubicin and etoposide. Inversely, downregulation of the Nrf2-dependent response by overexpression of Keap1 or transient transfection of Nrf2–small interfering RNA (siRNA) rendered cancer cells more susceptible to these drugs. Upregulation of Nrf2 by the small chemical tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) also enhanced the resistance of cancer cells, indicating the feasibility of using small chemical inhibitors of Nrf2 as adjuvants to chemotherapy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the strategy of using Nrf2 inhibitors to increase efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents is not limited to certain cancer types or anticancer drugs and thus can be applied during the course of chemotherapy to treat many cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3312612  PMID: 18413364

Results 1-3 (3)