Absolute amounts and status of the Nrf2-Keap1-Cul3 complex within cells

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The transcription factor Nrf2 (NF-E2-related-factor 2) is essential for the oxidative and electrophilic stress responses. Keap1 (Kelch-like-ECH-associated-protein 1), an adaptor for a cullin-3 (Cul3)-based ubiquitin ligase, regulates Nrf2 activity through proteasomal degradation, and acts as a sensor for oxidative and electrophilic stresses. The Keap1-Cul3 complex is a critical regulator of the cellular Nrf2 level, and yet quantitative information regarding their endogenous intracellular concentrations in homeostatic conditions and during stress responses is unknown. We analyzed the absolute amounts of the Nrf2, Keap1, and Cul3 proteins in five murine cell lines by comparison with serial dilutions of purified recombinant protein standards in combination with quantitative immunoblot analyses. In the basal state, the amount of Nrf2 was maintained at lower levels than those of Keap1 and Cul3 proteins, whereas the electrophilic agent diethylmaleate dramatically increased Nrf2 to a level greater than that of Keap1 and Cul3, resulting in the accumulation of Nrf2 in the nucleus. In contrast, Keap1 and Cul3 did not display any changes in their abundance, subcellular localization, or interaction in response to electrophilic stimuli. Our results demonstrate that the regulation of the Nrf2 protein level during stress responses is mediated by the activity but not the composition of the Nrf2- Keap1-Cul3 complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3100-3112
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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