Induction of the Nrf2-driven antioxidant response confers neuroprotection during mitochondrial stress in vivo

Andy Y. Shih, Sophie Imbeault, Vilte Barakauskas, Heidi Erb, Lei Jiang, Ping Li, Timothy H. Murphy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


NF-E2 related factor (Nrf2) controls a pleiotropic cellular defense, where multiple antioxidant/detoxification pathways are up-regulated in unison. Although small molecule inducers of Nrf2 activity have been reported to protect neurons in vitro, whether similar pathways can be accessed in vivo is not known. We have investigated whether in vivo toxicity of the mitochondrial complex II inhibitor 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP) can be attenuated by constitutive and inducible Nrf2 activity. The absence of Nrf2 function in Nrf2-/- mice resulted in 3-NP hypersensitivity that became apparent with time and increasing dose, causing motor deficits and striatal lesions on a more rapid time scale than identically treated Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2+/- controls. Striatal succinate dehydrogenase activity, the target of 3-NP, was inhibited to the same extent in all genotypes by a single acute dose of 3-NP, suggesting that brain concentrations of 3-NP were similar. Dietary supplementation with the Nrf2 inducer tert-butylhydroquinone attenuated 3-NP toxicity in Nrf2 +/- mice, but not Nrf2-/-, confirming the Nrf2-specific action of the inducer in vivo. Increased Nrf2 activity alone was sufficient to protect animals from 3-NP toxicity because intrastriatal adenovirus-mediated Nrf2 overexpression significantly reduced lesion size compared with green fluorescent protein overexpressing controls. In cultured astrocytes, 3-NP was found to increase Nrf2 activity leading to antioxidant response element-dependent gene expression providing a potential mechanism for the increased sensitivity of Nrf2-/- animals to 3-NP toxicity in vivo. We conclude that Nrf2 may underlie a feedback system limiting oxidative load during chronic metabolic stress

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22925-22936
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 17 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Induction of the Nrf2-driven antioxidant response confers neuroprotection during mitochondrial stress in vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this