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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Jun;4(6):860-70. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-10-0354. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Zerumbone induces heme oxygenase-1 expression in mouse skin and cultured murine epidermal cells through activation of Nrf2.

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College of Pharmacy, Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology, Seoul National University, South Korea.


Zerumbone, a sesquiterpene derived from tropical ginger, contains an electrophilic α,β-unsaturated carbonyl moiety and was found to suppress chemically induced papilloma formation in mouse skin. Here, we report that topical application of zerumbone onto dorsal skin of hairless mice induces activation of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and expression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). We compared the levels of HO-1 protein in the skin of zerumbone-treated Nrf2 wild-type and Nrf2 knockout mice, and nrf2-deficient mice expressed HO-1 protein to a much lesser extent than the wild-type animals following topical application of zerumbone. Treatment of mouse epidermal JB6 cells with zerumbone caused a marked increase of Nrf2 nuclear translocation followed by the promoter activity of HO-1, and also enhanced direct binding of Nrf2 to the antioxidant response element. Moreover, knockdown of Nrf2 in JB6 cells diminished the zerumbone-induced upregulation of HO-1. Notably, α-humulene and 8-hydroxy-α-humulene, the structural analogues of zerumbone that lack the α,β-unsaturated carbonyl group, failed to activate Nrf2 and were unable to increase HO-1 expression. Unlike zerumbone, these nonelectrophilic analogues could not suppress the 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced JB6 cell transformation and the intracellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Interestingly, when JB6 cells were treated with carbon monoxide-releasing molecule that mimics the HO-1 activity, the TPA-induced ROS production was markedly reduced. Taken together, these findings suggest that upregulation of HO-1 expression by zerumbone is mediated through activation of Nrf2 signaling, which provides a mechanistic basis for the chemopreventive effects of this sesquiterpene on mouse skin carcinogenesis.

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