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Hum Exp Toxicol. 2019 Aug;38(8):951-961. doi: 10.1177/0960327119845035. Epub 2019 Apr 24.

Curcumin induces p53-independent inactivation of Nrf2 during oxidative stress-induced apoptosis.

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1 Department of Molecular Biomedicine, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Mexico City, Mexico.
2 Oncogenomics and Genomics of Bone Diseases Laboratory, National Institute of Genomic Medicine, Clinic Research, Mexico City, Mexico.
3 Immunogenomic and Metabolic Diseases, National Institute of Genomic Medicine, Clinic Research, Mexico City, Mexico.


The transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) is a master regulator of a battery of antioxidant and detoxificant genes with cytoprotective function. Since Nrf2 inactivation is necessary for the complete execution of apoptosis in the presence of extensive cellular damage caused by oxidative stress, constant activation of Nrf2 may protect tumoral cells from apoptosis. The tumor suppressor gene p53 has been suggested to participate in apoptosis-related repression of Nrf2. Thus, we studied the inactivation of Nrf2 during oxidant-induced apoptosis in a p53 dysfunctional cellular model. Using curcumin dose-response assay and time-response assay in an immortalized lymphoblastoid cell line (control line 45), we observed a time-dependent increase in apoptotic markers such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fragmentation, phosphatidylserine exposure, and caspase-3, caspase-9 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARP) cleavage. Interestingly, at early times of exposure to a proapoptotic dose of curcumin (15 μM), we observed nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 and the expression of Nrf2 target genes, whereas at late exposure times we found a reduction of total and nuclear protein levels of Nrf2 as well as downregulation of Nrf2 target genes in the absence of p53 activation. These data suggest that apoptosis-related inactivation of Nrf2 could occur in a p53 dysfunctional background, opening the possible occurrence of p53-independent mechanism to explain Nrf2 inactivation during apoptosis.


Nrf2; apoptosis; curcumin; oxidative stress; p53


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