Genetic ablation of Nrf2 exacerbates neurotoxic effects of acrylamide in mice

Frederick Adams Ekuban, Cai Zong, Madoka Takikawa, Kota Morikawa, Toshihiro Sakurai, Sahoko Ichihara, Ken Itoh, Masayuki Yamamoto, Seiichiroh Ohsako, Gaku Ichihara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Acrylamide (ACR), a recognized neurotoxicant in humans and experimental animals, is widely used in industry and in food generated through Maillard reaction. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a master regulator of the cellular defense system and activates antioxidants and cytoprotective genes. The exact roles of Nrf2 in environmental electrophile-induced neurotoxicity is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to determine the roles of Nrf2 in ACR-induced neurotoxicity including degeneration of monoaminergic axons and sensorimotor dysfunction. Male 10-week-old C57BL/6JJcl Nrf2-knockout mice and wild type (WT) counterparts were each divided into four groups of 12 and provided with drinking water containing acrylamide at 0, 67, 110 or 200 ppm for four weeks. The effects of acrylamide were examined by landing foot spread test, immunohistochemistry for noradrenaline (NA) and serotonin (5-HT)-containing axons and Iba1-positive microglia in the prefrontal cortex as well as quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) on antioxidant, proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory genes in the prefrontal cortex. Relative to the wild type, exposure of Nrf2-knockout mice to acrylamide increased hindlimb splay length, microglial area and process length as well as decreasing the density of NA and 5-HT-immunoreactive axons to a greater extent. Moreover, deletion of Nrf2 gene suppressed acrylamide-induced mRNA upregulation of Nrf2-antioxidants, NAD(P): quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1) and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) as well as anti-inflammtory markers such as, arginase-1 (Arg1), found in the inflammatory zone-1 (Fizz1), chitinase-like 3 (Chi3l3), interleukin-4 receptor alpha (IL-4Rα), cluster of differentiation 206 (CD206) and tranforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1) while enhancing acrylamide-induced upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), tumor necrosis-alpha (TNF-α) and iducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in the prefrontal cortex. The results demonstrate susceptibility of mice lacking the Nrf2 gene to acrylamide-induced neurotoxicity and neuroinflammation with the activation of microglia. Moreover, the results suggest the role of Nrf2 not only in induction of antioxidant gene expression, but also in suppression of proinflammatory cytokine gene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152785
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May 30


  • Acrylamide
  • Microglial activation
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Noradrenergic axons
  • Nrf2
  • Serotonergic axons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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