Nrf1 and Nrf2 play distinct roles in activation of antioxidant response element-dependent genes

Makiko Ohtsuji, Fumiki Katsuoka, Akira Kobayashi, Hiroyuki Aburatani, John D. Hayes, Masayuki Yamamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

265 Citations (Scopus)


Nrf1 is a member of the vertebrate Cap'n'Collar (CNC) transcription factor family that commonly contains a unique basicleucine zipper domain. Among CNC family members, Nrf2 is known to regulate a battery of antioxidant and xenobiotic-metabolizing enzyme genes through the antioxidant response element (ARE). Although Nrf1 has also been shown to bind the ARE, it is unclear whether it plays a distinct role from Nrf2 in regulating genes with this element. To address this issue in vivo, we generated mice bearing a hepatocyte-specific disruption of the Nrf1 gene. AlthoughNrf2 knock-out mice did not exhibit liver damage when they were maintained in an unstressed condition, hepatocyte-specific deletion of Nrf1 caused liver damage resembling the human disease non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Gene expression analysis revealed that the disruption of Nrf1 causes stress that activates a number of ARE-driven genes in an Nrf2-dependent manner, indicating that Nrf2 cannot compensate completely for loss of Nrf1 function in the liver. In contrast, expression of metallothionein-1 and -2 (MT1 and MT2) genes, each of which harbors at least one ARE in its regulatory region, was decreased in the Nrf1-null mutant mice. Whereas Nrf1 and Nrf2 bound the MT1 ARE with comparable affinity, Nrf1 preferentially activated the reporter gene expression through the MT1ARE. This study has, thus, identified the first ARE-dependent gene that relies exclusively on Nrf1, suggesting that it plays a distinct functional role in regulating ARE-driven genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33554-33562
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Nov 28


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