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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 4;286(9):7629-40. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.208173. Epub 2010 Dec 31.

Acetylation-deacetylation of the transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) regulates its transcriptional activity and nucleocytoplasmic localization.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee 37208-3599, USA.


Activation of Nrf2 by covalent modifications that release it from its inhibitor protein Keap1 has been extensively documented. In contrast, covalent modifications that may regulate its action after its release from Keap1 have received little attention. Here we show that CREB-binding protein induced acetylation of Nrf2, increased binding of Nrf2 to its cognate response element in a target gene promoter, and increased Nrf2-dependent transcription from target gene promoters. Heterologous sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) decreased acetylation of Nrf2 as well as Nrf2-dependent gene transcription, and its effects were overridden by dominant negative SIRT1 (SIRT1-H355A). The SIRT1-selective inhibitors EX-527 and nicotinamide stimulated Nrf2-dependent gene transcription, whereas resveratrol, a putative activator of SIRT1, was inhibitory, mimicking the effect of SIRT1. Mutating lysine to alanine or to arginine at Lys(588) and Lys(591) of Nrf2 resulted in decreased Nrf2-dependent gene transcription and abrogated the transcription-activating effect of CREB-binding protein. Furthermore, SIRT1 had no effect on transcription induced by these mutants, indicating that these sites are acetylation sites. Microscope imaging of GFP-Nrf2 in HepG2 cells as well as immunoblotting for Nrf2 showed that acetylation conditions resulted in increased nuclear localization of Nrf2, whereas deacetylation conditions enhanced its cytoplasmic rather than its nuclear localization. We posit that Nrf2 in the nucleus undergoes acetylation, resulting in binding, with basic-region leucine zipper protein(s), to the antioxidant response element and consequently in gene transcription, whereas deacetylation disengages it from the antioxidant response element, thereby resulting in transcriptional termination and subsequently in its nuclear export.

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