Environmental health perspectives

Cross-regulations among NRFs and KEAP1 and effects of their silencing on arsenic-induced antioxidant response and cytotoxicity in human keratinocytes.

PMID 22476201


Nuclear factor E2-related factors (NRFs), including NRF2 and NRF1, play critical roles in mediating the cellular adaptive response to oxidative stress. Human exposure to inorganic arsenic, a potent oxidative stressor, causes various dermal disorders, including hyperkeratosis and skin cancer. We investigated the cross-regulations among NRF2, NRF1, and KEAP1, a cullin-3-adapter protein that allows NRF2 to be ubiquinated and degraded by the proteasome complex, in arsenic-induced antioxidant responses. In human keratinocyte HaCaT cells, selective knockdown (KD) of NRF2 by lentiviral short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) significantly reduced the expression of many antioxidant enzymes and sensitized the cells to acute cytotoxicity of inorganic arsenite (iAs(3+)). In contrast, silencing KEAP1 led to a dramatic resistance to iAs(3+)-induced apoptosis. Pretreatment of HaCaT cells with NRF2 activators, such as tert-butylhydroquinone, protects the cells against acute iAs(3+) toxicity in an NRF2-dependent fashion. Consistent with the negative regulatory role of KEAP1 in NRF2 activation, KEAP1-KD cells exhibited enhanced transcriptional activity of NRF2 under nonstressed conditions. However, deficiency in KEAP1 did not facilitate induction of NRF2-target genes by iAs(3+). In addition, NRF2 silencing reduced the expression of KEAP1 at transcription and protein levels but increased the protein expression of NRF1 under the iAs(3+)-exposed condition. In contrast, silencing KEAP1 augmented protein accumulation of NRF2 under basal and iAs3+-exposed conditions, whereas the iAs(3+)-induced protein accumulation of NRF1 was attenuated in KEAP1-KD cells. Our studies suggest that NRF2, KEAP1, and NRF1 are coordinately involved in the regulation of the cellular adaptive response to iAs(3+)-induced oxidative stress.