The Cap'n'Collar basic leucine zipper transcription factor Nrf2 (NF-E2 p45-related factor 2) controls both constitutive and inducible expression of intestinal detoxification and glutathione biosynthetic enzymes

M McMahon, K Itoh, M Yamamoto, S A Chanas, C J Henderson, L I McLellan, C R Wolf, C Cavin, J D Hayes
Cancer Research 2001 April 15, 61 (8): 3299-307
Northern blotting has shown that mouse small intestine contains relatively large amounts of the nuclear factor-E2 p45-related factor (Nrf) 2 transcription factor but relatively little Nrf1. Regulation of intestinal antioxidant and detoxication enzymes by Nrf2 has been assessed using a mouse line bearing a targeted disruption of the gene encoding this factor. Both Nrf2-/- and Nrf2+/+ mice were fed a control diet or one supplemented with either synthetic cancer chemopreventive agents [butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), ethoxyquin (EQ), or oltipraz] or phytochemicals [indole-3-carbinol, cafestol and kahweol palmitate, sulforaphane, coumarin (CMRN), or alpha-angelicalactone]. The constitutive level of NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase (NQO) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzyme activities in cytosols from small intestine was typically found to be between 30% and 70% lower in samples prepared from Nrf2 mutant mice fed a control diet than in equivalent samples from Nrf2+/+ mice. Most of the chemopreventive agents included in this study induced NQO and GST enzyme activities in the small intestine of Nrf2+/+ mice. Increases of between 2.7- and 6.2-fold were observed in wild-type animals fed diets supplemented with BHA or EQ; increases of about 2-fold were observed with a mixture of cafestol and kahweol palmitate, CMRN, or alpha-angelicalactone; and increases of 1.5-fold were measured with sulforaphane. Immunoblotting confirmed that in the small intestine, the constitutive level of NQO1 is lower in the Nrf2-/- mouse, and it also showed that induction of the oxidoreductase was substantially diminished in the mutant mouse. Immunoblotting class-alpha and class-mu GST showed that constitutive expression of most transferase subunits is also reduced in the small intestine of Nrf2 mutant mice. Significantly, induction of class-alpha and class-mu GST by EQ, BHA, or CMRN is apparent in the gene knockout animal. No consistent change in the constitutive levels of the catalytic heavy subunit of gamma-glutamylcysteinyl synthetase (GCS(h)) was observed in the small intestine of Nrf2-/- mice. However, although the expression of GCS(h) was found to be increased dramatically in the small intestine of Nrf2+/+ mice by dietary BHA or EQ, this induction was essentially abolished in the knockout mice. It is apparent that Nrf2 influences both constitutive and inducible expression of intestinal antioxidant and detoxication proteins in a gene-specific fashion. Immunohistochemistry revealed that induction of NQO1, class-alpha GST, and GCS(h) occurs primarily in epithelial cells of the small intestine. This suggests that the variation in inducibility of NQO1, Gsta1/2, and GCS(h) in the mutant mouse is not attributable to the expression of the enzymes in distinct cell types but rather to differences in the dependency of these genes on Nrf2 for induction.

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