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Mechanism of Chemical Activation of Nrf2

By Yun Li, Joseph D. Paonessa and Yuesheng Zhang

Abstract

NF-E2 related factor-2 (Nrf2) promotes the transcription of many cytoprotective genes and is a major drug target for prevention of cancer and other diseases. Indeed, the cancer-preventive activities of several well-known chemical agents were shown to depend on Nrf2 activation. It is well known that chemopreventive Nrf2 activators stabilize Nrf2 by blocking its ubiquitination, but previous studies have indicated that this process occurs exclusively in the cytoplasm. Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) binds to Nrf2 and orchestrates Nrf2 ubiquitination, and it has been a widely-held view that inhibition of Nrf2 ubiquitination by chemopreventive agents results from the dissociation of Nrf2 from its repressor Keap1. Here, we show that while the activation of Nrf2 by prototypical chemical activators, including 5,6-dihydrocyclopenta-1,2-dithiole-3-thione (CPDT) and sulforaphane (SF), results solely from inhibition of its ubiquitination, such inhibition occurs predominantly in the nucleus. Moreover, the Nrf2 activators promote Nrf2 association with Keap1, rather than disassociation, which appears to result from inhibition of Nrf2 phosphorylation at Ser40. Available evidence suggests the Nrf2 activators may block Nrf2 ubiquitination by altering Keap1 conformation via reaction with the thiols of specific Keap1 cysteines. We further show that while the inhibitory effects of CPDT and SF on Nrf2 ubiquitination depend entirely on Keap1, Nrf2 is also degraded by a Keap1-independent mechanism. These findings provide significant new insight about Nrf2 activation and suggest that exogenous chemical activators of Nrf2 enter the nucleus to exert most of their inhibitory impact on Nrf2 ubiquitination and degradation

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:3338841
Provided by: PubMed Central
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