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Toxicol Sci. 2010 Aug;116(2):549-61. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfq150. Epub 2010 May 23.

Benzo[a]pyrene increases the Nrf2 content by downregulating the Keap1 message.

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Department of Labour Physiology, Vietnam Military Medical University, Hadong, Hanoi, Vietnam.


We employed the suppressive subtractive hybridization to identify 41 up- and downregulated transcripts in Jurkat cells after benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) treatment. Among the 21 downregulated transcripts, we found that BaP suppresses the Keap1 transcript by 7.5-fold. Subsequent analyses revealed that BaP significantly suppresses the Keap1 message and protein levels to about 40 and 60%, respectively, of the vehicle controls in Jurkat cells without reactive oxygen species involvement. In addition, the nuclear Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor) protein content is significantly increased by 2.6-fold. The same BaP treatment to Hepa1c1c7 cells also downregulates the Keap1 message and protein levels to a similar extent. When we treated Jurkat cells with 3-(4-morpholinyl)propyl isothiocyanate, which is known to increase the amount of the Nrf2 content, we found that there is no change in the Keap1 message, but the amount of the Keap1 (kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1) protein is reduced to 75% of the vehicle controls. Although both Nrf2 target messages nqo1 and gstp1 are upregulated by BaP in Jurkat cells, only GSTP1 is upregulated at the protein level. Unlike Hepa1c1c7 cells, Jurkat cells have no detectable aryl hydrocarbon receptor and BaP metabolites, minimal CYP1A1 activity, and no quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) activity. We concluded that BaP, but not its metabolites, increases the amount of the nuclear Nrf2 protein by downregulating the Keap1 message in Jurkat cells.

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