Acrolein causes inhibitor κb-independent decreases in nuclear factor κB activation in human lung adenocarcinoma (A549) cells

Noel D. Horton, Shyam S. Biswal, Lucindra L. Corrigan, Julie Bratta, James P. Kehrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acrolein is a highly electrophilic α,β-unsaturated aldehyde to which humans are exposed in various situations. In the present study, the effects of sublethal doses of acrolein on nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) activation in A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells were investigated. Immediately following a 30-min exposure to 45 fmol of acrolein/cell, glutathione (GSH) and DNA synthesis and NF-κB binding were reduced by more than 80%. All parameters returned to normal or supranormal levels by 8 h post-treatment. Pretreatment with acrolein completely blocked 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)- induced activation of NF-κB. Cells treated for 1 h with 1 mM diethyl maleate (DEM) showed a 34 and 53% decrease in GSH and DNA synthesis, respectively. DEM also reduced NF-κB activation by 64% at 2 h posttreatment, with recovery to within 22% of control at 8 h. Both acrolein and DEM decreased NF-κB function ~50% at 2 h after treatment with TPA, as shown by a secreted alkaline phosphatase reporter assay. GSH returned to control levels by 8 h after DEM treatment, but proliferation remained significantly depressed for 24 h. Interestingly, DEM caused a profound decrease in NF-κB binding, even at doses as low as 0.125 mM that had little effect on GSH. Neither acrolein nor DEM had any effect on the levels of phosphorylated or nonphosphorylated inhibitor κB-α (IκB-α). Furthermore, acrolein decreased NF-κB activation in cells depleted of IκB-α by TPA stimulation in the presence of cycloheximide, demonstrating that the decrease in NF-κB activation was not the result of increased binding by the inhibitory protein. This conclusion was further supported by the finding that acrolein modified NF-κB in the cytosol prior to chemical dissociation from IκB with detergent. Together, these data support the conclusion that the inhibition of NF-κB activation by acrolein and DEM is IκB-independent. The mechanism appears to be related to direct modification of thiol groups in the NF-κB subunits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9200-9206
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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