Cytochrome P450 2A5 and bilirubin: Mechanisms of gene regulation and cytoprotection

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Bilirubin (BR) has recently been identified as the first endogenous substrate for cytochrome P450 2A5 (CYP2A5) and it has been suggested that CYP2A5 plays a major role in BR clearance as an alternative mechanism to BR conjugation by uridine-diphosphate glucuronyltransferase 1A1. This study investigated the mechanisms of Cyp2a5 gene regulation by BR and the cytoprotective role of CYP2A5 in BR hepatotoxicity. BR induced CYP2A5 expression at the mRNA and protein levels in a dose-dependent manner in primary mouse hepatocytes. BR treatment also caused nuclear translocation of Nuclear factor-E2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) in hepatocytes. In reporter assays, BR treatment of primary hepatocytes transfected with a Cyp2a5 promoter-luciferase reporter construct resulted in a 2-fold induction of Cyp2a5 reporter activity. Furthermore, cotransfection of the hepatocytes with a Nrf2 expression vector without BR treatment resulted in an increase in Cyp2a5 reporter activity of approximately 2-fold and BR treatment of Nrf2 cotransfectants further increased reporter activity by 4-fold. In addition, site-directed mutation of the ARE in the reporter construct completely abolished both the BR- and Nrf2-mediated increases in reporter activity. The cytoprotective role of CYP2A5 against BR-mediated apoptosis was also examined in Hepa 1–6 cells that lack endogenous CYP2A5. Transient overexpression of CYP2A5 partially blocked BR-induced caspase-3 cleavage in Hepa 1–6 cells. Furthermore, in vitro degradation of BR was increased by microsomes from Hepa 1–6 cells overexpressing CYP2A5 compared to control cells transfected with an empty vector. Collectively, these results suggest that Nrf2-mediated CYP2A5 transactivation in response to BR may provide an additional mechanism for adaptive cytoprotection against BR hepatotoxicity.

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