Contribution of NRF2 to sulfur metabolism and mitochondrial activity

Md Morshedul Alam, Akihiro Kishino, Eunkyu Sung, Hiroki Sekine, Takaaki Abe, Shohei Murakami, Takaaki Akaike, Hozumi Motohashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NF-E2-related factor 2 (NRF2) plays a crucial role in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis by regulating various enzymes and proteins that are involved in the redox reactions utilizing sulfur. While substantial impacts of NRF2 on mitochondrial activity have been described, the precise mechanism by which NRF2 regulates mitochondrial function is still not fully understood. Here, we demonstrated that NRF2 increased intracellular persulfides by upregulating the cystine transporter xCT encoded by Slc7a11, a well-known NRF2 target gene. Persulfides have been shown to play an important role in mitochondrial function. Supplementation with glutathione trisulfide (GSSSG), which is a form of persulfide, elevated the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), increased the oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and promoted ATP production. Persulfide-mediated mitochondrial activation was shown to require the mitochondrial sulfur oxidation pathway, especially sulfide quinone oxidoreductase (SQOR). Consistently, NRF2-mediated mitochondrial activation was also dependent on SQOR activity. This study clarified that the facilitation of persulfide production and sulfur metabolism in mitochondria by increasing cysteine availability is one of the mechanisms for NRF2-dependent mitochondrial activation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102624
JournalRedox Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr


  • Cysteine
  • Cystine
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial membrane potential
  • Persulfide
  • xCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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