Nrf2/p62 signaling in apoptosis resistance and its role in cadmium-induced carcinogenesis

Young-Ok Son, Poyil Pratheeshkumar, Ram Vinod Roy, John Andrew Hitron, Lei Wang, Zhuo Zhang, Xianglin Shi
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2014 October 10, 289 (41): 28660-75
The cadmium-transformed human lung bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells exhibit a property of apoptosis resistance as compared with normal non-transformed BEAS-2B cells. The level of basal reactive oxygen species (ROS) is extremely low in transformed cells in correlation with elevated expressions of both antioxidant enzymes (catalase, SOD1, and SOD2) and antiapoptotic proteins (Bcl-2/Bcl-xL). Moreover, Nrf2 and p62 are highly expressed in these transformed cells. The knockdown of Nrf2 or p62 by siRNA enhances ROS levels and cadmium-induced apoptosis. The binding activities of Nrf2 on the antioxidant response element promoter regions of p62/Bcl-2/Bcl-xL were dramatically increased in the cadmium-exposed transformed cells. Cadmium exposure increased the formation of LC3-II and the frequency of GFP-LC3 punctal cells in non-transformed BEAS-2B cells, whereas these increases are not shown in transformed cells, an indication of autophagy deficiency of transformed cells. Furthermore, the expression levels of Nrf2 and p62 are dramatically increased during chronic long term exposure to cadmium in the BEAS-2B cells as well as antiapoptotic proteins and antioxidant enzymes. These proteins are overexpressed in the tumor tissues derived from xenograft mouse models. Moreover, the colony growth is significantly attenuated in the transformed cells by siRNA transfection specific for Nrf2 or p62. Taken together, this study demonstrates that cadmium-transformed cells have acquired autophagy deficiency, leading to constitutive p62 and Nrf2 overexpression. These overexpressions up-regulate the antioxidant proteins catalase and SOD and the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. The final consequences are decrease in ROS generation, apoptotic resistance, and increased cell survival, proliferation, and tumorigenesis.

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