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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 7;279(19):20108-17. Epub 2004 Feb 20.

PERK-dependent activation of Nrf2 contributes to redox homeostasis and cell survival following endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and Cancer Center, Department of Cancer Biology, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, 421 Curie Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The accumulation of unfolded proteins elicits a cellular response that triggers both pro-survival and pro-apoptotic signaling events. PERK-dependent activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) is critical for survival signaling during this response; however, the mechanism whereby Nrf2 confers a protective advantage to stressed cells remains to be defined. We now demonstrate that Nrf2 activation contributes to the maintenance of glutathione levels, which in turn functions as a buffer for the accumulation of reactive oxygen species during the unfolded protein response. The deleterious effects of Nrf2 or PERK deficiencies could be attenuated by the restoration of cellular glutathione levels or Nrf2 activity. In addition, the inhibition of reactive oxygen species production attenuated apoptotic induction following endoplasmic reticulum stress. Our data suggest that perturbations in cellular redox status sensitize cells to the harmful effects of endoplasmic reticulum stress, but that other factors are essential for apoptotic commitment.

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