Identification of age-specific Nrf2 binding to a novel antioxidant response element locus in the Gclc promoter: a compensatory means for the loss of glutathione synthetic capacity in the aging rat liver?

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NFE2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) transcriptionally governs the cellular response to harmful electrophiles, xenobiotics, and reactive oxygen species. Its nuclear levels decline with age (Suh et al., 2004a), which in part explains the age-related loss of phase II detoxification. However, little work has yet characterized how age affects Nrf2 DNA binding or the role that alterations to the Nrf2 transcriptional apparatus plays in modulating Nrf2-mediated gene expression. In this study, we used immunoprecipitation assays to show that Nrf2 bound to the active antioxidant response element (ARE) of the catalytic subunit of glutamate cysteine ligase (GCLC) is significantly lower in hepatic chromatin from aged vs. young rats. Moreover, the activity at this ARE locus is diminished during aging because of the presence of Bach1 and the absence of CREB-binding protein (CBP), a transcriptional repressor and co-activator, respectively. Further analysis reveals that Nrf2 occupies an alternate ARE site located −2.2 kb downstream from the normally active ARE binding site in livers of old rats, indicating an age-specific adaptation to maintain gene expression. Our results, thus, show that the conversion of Nrf2 binding from an active ARE to an alternative ARE element is not adequate to maintain basal expression of hepatic Gclc in old rats, which provides a potential mechanism for the age-related loss of glutathione synthetic and other phase II enzymes.

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