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Front Pharmacol. 2019 Apr 12;10:382. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00382. eCollection 2019.

Nrf2 as a Potential Mediator of Cardiovascular Risk in Metabolic Diseases.

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Department of Pharmacology, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
Special Academic Unit of Health Sciences, Federal University of Goiás, Jataí, Brazil.


Free radicals act as secondary messengers, modulating a number of important biological processes, including gene expression, ion mobilization in transport systems, protein interactions and enzymatic functions, cell growth, cell cycle, redox homeostasis, among others. In the cardiovascular system, the physiological generation of free radicals ensures the integrity and function of cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells, and adjacent smooth muscle cells. In physiological conditions, there is a balance between free radicals generation and the activity of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant systems. Redox imbalance, caused by increased free radical's production and/or reduced antioxidant defense, plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular diseases, contributing to cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure, endothelial dysfunction, hypertrophy and hypercontractility of vascular smooth muscle. Excessive production of oxidizing agents in detriment of antioxidant defenses in the cardiovascular system has been described in obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. The transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2), a major regulator of antioxidant and cellular protective genes, is primarily activated in response to oxidative stress. Under physiological conditions, Nrf2 is constitutively expressed in the cytoplasm of cells and is usually associated with Keap-1, a repressor protein. This association maintains low levels of free Nrf2. Stressors, such as free radicals, favor the translocation of Nrf2 to the cell nucleus. The accumulation of nuclear Nrf2 allows the binding of this protein to the antioxidant response element of genes that code antioxidant proteins. Although little information on the role of Nrf2 in the cardiovascular system is available, growing evidence indicates that decreased Nrf2 activity contributes to oxidative stress, favoring the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disorders found in obesity, diabetes mellitus, and atherosclerosis. The present mini-review will provide a comprehensive overview of the role of Nrf2 as a contributing factor to cardiovascular risk in metabolic diseases.


Nrf2; cardiovascular risk; metabolic diseases; oxidative stress; therapeutic target

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