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J Cell Sci. 2009 Dec 15;122(Pt 24):4452-64. doi: 10.1242/jcs.058537. Epub 2009 Nov 17.

Antioxidant-induced modification of INrf2 cysteine 151 and PKC-delta-mediated phosphorylation of Nrf2 serine 40 are both required for stabilization and nuclear translocation of Nrf2 and increased drug resistance.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.

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  • J Cell Sci. 2010 Jun;123(Pt 11):1969.


Antioxidants cause dissociation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) from inhibitor of Nrf2 (INrf2) and so Nrf2:INrf2 can serve as a sensor of oxidative stress. Nrf2 translocates to the nucleus, binds to antioxidant response element (ARE) and activates defensive gene expression, which protects cells. Controversies exist regarding the role of antioxidant-induced modification of INrf2 cysteine 151 or protein kinase C (PKC)-mediated phosphorylation of Nrf2 serine 40 in the release of Nrf2 from INrf2. In addition, the PKC isoform that phosphorylates Nrf2S40 remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that antioxidant-induced PKC-delta-mediated phosphorylation of Nrf2S40 leads to release of Nrf2 from INrf2. This was evident from specific chemical inhibitors of PKC isoenzymes in reporter assays, in vitro kinase assays with purified Nrf2 and PKC isoenzymes, in vivo analysis with dominant-negative mutants and siRNA against PKC isoforms, use of PKC-delta(+/+) and PKC-delta(-/-) cells, and use of Nrf2S40 phospho-specific antibody. The studies also showed that antioxidant-induced INrf2C151 modification was insufficient for the dissociation of Nrf2 from INrf2. PKC-delta-mediated Nrf2S40 phosphorylation was also required. Nrf2 and mutant Nrf2S40A both bind to INrf2. However, antioxidant treatment led to release of Nrf2 but not Nrf2S40A from INrf2. In addition, Nrf2 and mutant Nrf2S40A both failed to dissociate from mutant INrf2C151A. Furthermore, antioxidant-induced ubiquitylation of INrf2 in PKC-delta(+/+) and PKC-delta(-/-) cells occurred, but Nrf2 failed to be released in PKC-delta(-/-) cells. The antioxidant activation of Nrf2 reduced etoposide-mediated DNA fragmentation and promoted cell survival in PKC-delta(+/+) but not in PKC-delta(-/-) cells. These data together demonstrate that both modification of INrf2C151 and PKC-delta-mediated phosphorylation of Nrf2S40 play crucial roles in Nrf2 release from INrf2, antioxidant induction of defensive gene expression, promoting cell survival, and increasing drug resistance.

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