Nrf2 is the pre-dominant transcription activator responsible for coordinated up-regulation of ARE-driven antioxidant and detoxification genes. The activity of Nrf2 is tightly regulated at basal levels through its ubiquitination by Cul3-Keap1 and consequential degradation. Upon exposure to stress, the Cul3-Keap1 ligase is inhibited, leading to Nrf2 stabilization and activation. Here we describe CACUL1/CAC1 as a positive regulator of the Nrf2 pathway. We found that CACUL1 is up-regulated by Nrf2-activating oxidative stresses in cells and in mice. The association of CACUL1 with the Cul3-Keap1 complex led to a decrease in Nrf2 ubiquitination levels at non-stressed as well as stressed conditions, and sensitized cells for higher Nrf2 activation. Furthermore, CACUL1 knock-down led to a decrease in Nrf2 activity and cell viability under stress. Our results show that CACUL1 is a regulator of Nrf2 ubiquitination, adding another regulatory layer to the Nrf2 antioxidant stress response.
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