Modulation of gene expression by cancer chemopreventive dithiolethiones through the Keap1-Nrf2 pathway: Identification of novel gene clusters for cell survival

Mi Kyoung Kwak, Nobunao Wakabayashi, Ken Itoh, Hozumi Motohashi, Masayuki Yamamoto, Thomas W. Kensler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Enzyme inducers such as 3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione (D3T) enhance the detoxication of environmental carcinogens and protect against neoplasia. The putative molecular sensor for inducers is Keapl, a sulfhydrylrich protein that sequesters the transcription factor Nrf2 in the cytoplasm. Expression of these detoxication enzymes is blunted in nrf2-deficient mice; moreover, these mice are more sensitive to carcinogenesis, and the protective actions of dithiolethiones are lost with nrf2 disruption. Hepatic gene expression profiles were examined by oligonucleotide microarray analysis in vehicle- or D3T-treated wild-type mice as well as in nrf2 single and keap1-nrf2 double knockout mice to identify those genes regulated by the Keap1-Nrf2 pathway. Transcript levels of 292 genes were elevated in wild-type mice 24 h after treatment with D3T; 79% of these genes were induced in wild-type, but not nrf2-deficient mice. These nrf2-dependent, D3T-inducible genes included known detoxication and antioxidative enzymes. Unexpected clusters included genes for chaperones, protein trafficking, ubiquitin/26 S proteasome subunits, and signaling molecules. Gene expression patterns in keap1-nrf2 double knockout mice were similar to those in nrf2-single knockout mice. D3T also led to nrf2-dependent repression of 31 genes at 24 h; principally genes related to cholesterol/lipid biosynthesis. Collectively, D3T increases the expression of genes through the Keap1-Nrf2 signaling pathway that directly detoxify toxins and generate essential cofactors such as glutathione and reducing equivalents. Induction of nrf2-dependent genes involved in the recognition and repair/removal of damaged proteins expands the role of this pathway beyond primary control of electrophilic and oxidative stresses into secondary protective actions that enhance cell survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8135-8145
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 7 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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