Oleanolic acid activates Nrf2 and protects from acetaminophen hepatotoxicity via Nrf2-dependent and Nrf2-independent processes

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Oleanolic acid is a plant-derived triterpenoid, which protects against various hepatotoxicants in rodents. In order to determine whether oleanolic acid activates nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor known to induce various antioxidant and cytoprotective genes, wild-type and Nrf2-null mice were treated with oleanolic acid (90 mg/kg, i.p.) once daily for 3 days. Oleanolic acid increased nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 in wild-type but not Nrf2-null mice, as determined by Western blot and immunofluorescence. Oleanolic acid-treated wild-type mice had increased hepatic mRNA expression of the Nrf2 target genes NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (Nqo1); glutamate-cysteine ligase, catalytic subunit (Gclc); heme oxygenase-1 (Ho-1); as well as Nrf2 itself. In addition, oleanolic acid increased protein expression and enzyme activity of the prototypical Nrf2 target gene, Nqo1, in wild-type, but not in Nrf2-null mice. Oleanolic acid protected against acetaminophen hepatotoxicity in wild-type mice but to a lesser extent in Nrf2-null mice. Oleanolic acid-mediated Nrf2-independent protection from acetaminophen is, in part, due to induction of Nrf2-independent cytoprotective genes, such as metallothionein. Collectively, the present study demonstrates that oleanolic acid facilitates Nrf2 nuclear accumulation, causing induction of Nrf2-dependent genes, which contributes to protection from acetaminophen hepatotoxicity.

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