Regulation of the antioxidant response element by protein kinase C-mediated phosphorylation of NF-E2-related factor 2

H C Huang, T Nguyen, C B Pickett
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2000 November 7, 97 (23): 12475-80
A coordinated cellular response to oxidative stress occurs in part through transcriptional regulation via a cis-acting sequence known as the antioxidant response element (ARE). NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a member of the Cap'n'Collar family of basic region-leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors, has been implicated as an essential component of an ARE-binding transcriptional complex, but the signaling pathway leading to its activation has remained unclear. Using a reporter gene assay, we found that ARE-directed transcription was activated by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), but completely suppressed by staurosporine and Ro-32-0432, selective inhibitors of protein kinase C (PKC). Immunocytochemistry and subcellular fractionation revealed that PMA, like tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), promoted the nuclear localization of Nrf2, a process that was blocked by staurosporine or Ro-32-0432. We showed that Nrf2, a previously unidentified kinase target, was phosphorylated in HepG2 cells. PMA transiently activated Nrf2 phosphorylation, whereas the addition of tBHQ or beta-naphthoflavone (betaNF) led to a persistent stimulation, which was abolished by staurosporine, but not by U0126 and SB203580, respective inhibitors of MEK and p38 kinases. Purified Nrf2 was phosphorylated in vitro by the catalytic subunit of PKC, or by PKC immunoprecipitated from cell lysates. Significantly, PKC precipitated from tBHQ- or betaNF-treated cells showed enhanced activity against Nrf2. These findings indicate an important role of the PKC pathway in the ARE-mediated gene expression, and suggest that PKC-directed phosphorylation of Nrf2 may be a critical event for the nuclear translocation of this transcription factor in response to oxidative stress.

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