Cellular Nrf2 Levels Determine Cell Fate during Chemical Carcinogenesis in Esophageal Epithelium

Makoto Horiuchi, Keiko Taguchi, Wataru Hirose, Kouhei Tsuchida, Mikiko Suzuki, Yusuke Taniyama, Takashi Kamei, Masayuki Yamamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Nrf2 is essential for cytoprotection against carcinogens, and through systemic Nrf2 knockout mice, Nrf2-deficient cells were shown to be susceptible to chemical carcinogens and prone to developing cancers. However, the oncogenic potential of Nrf2-deficient epithelial cells surrounded by normal cells in the esophagus could not be assessed by previous models, and the fate of Nrf2-deficient cells in such situations remains elusive. In this study, therefore, we generated mice that harbor almost equal levels of cells with Nrf2 deleted and those with Nrf2 intact in the basal layer of the esophageal epithelium, utilizing inducible Cre-mediated recombination of Nrf2 alleles in adults through moderate use of tamoxifen. In this mouse model, epithelial cells with Nrf2 deleted were maintained with no obvious decrease or phenotypic changes for 12weeks under unstressed conditions. Upon exposure to the carcinogen 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide (4NQO), the cells with Nrf2 deleted accumulated DNA damage and selectively disappeared from the epithelium, so almost all 4NQO-induced tumors originated from cells with Nrf2 intact and not from those with Nrf2 deleted. We propose that cells with Nrf2 deleted do not undergo carcinogenesis due to selective elimination upon exposure to 4NQO, indicating that cellular Nrf2 abundance and the epithelial environment determine the cell fate or oncogenic potential of esophageal epithelial cells in 4NQO-induced carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00536-20
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb


  • 4NQO
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cell competition
  • Esophagus
  • Nrf2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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