Oxidative stress and glutathione (GSH) depletion are implicated in mycocystin hepatotoxicity. To investigate the role of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) in microcystin-induced liver injury, Nrf2-null, wild-type, and Keap1-hepatocyte knockout (Keap1-HKO) mice were treated with microcystin (50 μg/kg, i.p.). Blood and liver samples were collected 8 h thereafter. Microcystin increased serum alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase activities, and caused extensive inflammation and necrosis in Nrf2-null and wild-type mice, but not in Keap1-HKO mice. Oxidative stress and inflammation are implicated in microcystin-induced hepatotoxicity, as evidenced by increased lipid peroxidation and increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes, such as neutrophil-specific chemokines mKC and MIP-2, and pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-6. The increased expression of these pro-inflammatory genes was attenuated in Keap1-HKO mice. Nrf2 and Nqo1 mRNA and protein were higher in Keap1-HKO mice at constitutive levels and after microcystin. To further investigate the mechanism of the protection, hepatic GSH and the mRNA of GSH-related enzymes were determined. Microcystin markedly depleted liver GSH by 60–70% in Nrf2 and WT mice but only 35% in Keap1-HKO mice. The mRNAs of GSH conjugation and peroxide reduction enzymes, such as Gstα1, Gstα4, Gstμ, and Gpx2 were higher in livers of Keap1-HKO mice, together with higher expression of the rate-limiting enzyme for GSH synthesis (Gclc). Organic anion transport polypeptides were increased by microcystin with the most increase in Keap1-HKO mice. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that higher basal levels of Nrf2 and GSH-related genes in Keap1-HKO mice prevented microcystin-induced oxidative stress and liver injury.
Lu Y-F, Liu J, Wu KC, Qu Q, Fan F, et al. (2014) Overexpression of Nrf2 Protects against Microcystin-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Mice. PLoS ONE 9(3): e93013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0093013