Canonical and non-canonical mechanisms of Nrf2 activation

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Abstract

Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of genes involved in the metabolism, immune response, cellular proliferation, and other processes; however, the attention has been focused on the study of its ability to induce the expression of proteins involved in the antioxidant defense. Nrf2 is mainly regulated by Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1), an adapter substrate of Cullin 3 (Cul3) ubiquitin E3 ligase complex. Keap1 represses Nrf2 activity in the cytoplasm by its sequestering, ubiquitination and proteosomal degradation. Nrf2 activation, through the canonical mechanism, is carried out by electrophilic compounds and oxidative stress where some cysteine residues in Keap1 are oxidized, resulting in a decrease in Nrf2 ubiquitination and an increase in its nuclear translocation and activation. In the nucleus, Nrf2 induces a variety of genes involved in the antioxidant defense. Recently a new mechanism of Nrf2 activation has been described, called the non-canonical pathway, where proteins such as p62, p21, dipeptidyl peptidase III (DPP3), wilms tumor gene on X chromosome (WTX) and others are able to disrupt the Nrf2-Keap1 complex, by direct interaction with Keap1 decreasing Nrf2 ubiquitination and increasing its nuclear translocation and activation. In this review, the regulatory mechanisms involved in both canonical and non-canonical Nrf2 activation are discussed.

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