Cell-specific regulation of Nrf2 during ROS-Dependent cell death caused by 2,3,5-tris(glutathion-S-yl)hydroquinone (TGHQ)

Fengjiao Zhang, Frances M. Munoz, Lanlan Sun, Shuya Zhang, Serrine S. Lau, Terrence J. Monks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


2,3,5-tris(Glutathion-S-yl)hydroquinone (TGHQ), a potent nephrotoxic and nephroncarcinogenic metabolite of benzene and hydroquinone, retains the ability to redox cycle and create oxidative stress. We have previously detected that TGHQ induces ROS-dependent necrotic or apoptotic cell death in renal epithelial HK-2 and human leukemic HL-60 cells respectively. Herein, we sought to determine the nature of the Nrf2 regulation in HK-2 and HL-60 cells undergoing TGHQ-mediated ROS-dependent cell death, due to the key role of Nrf2 in oxidative stress. Intriguingly, Nrf2 was upregulated in HK-2, but not in HL-60 cells, despite the ROS-dependent nature of cell death in both cell types. The possibility that TGHQ targeted the GSK3β-dependent Nrf2 stabilization pathway in HL-60 cells was discounted, whereas TGHQ-induced decreases in Nrf2 phosphorylation at Ser40 site appears to partially underlie the inability of TGHQ to up-regulate Nrf2 expression in HL-60 cells. Moreover, whereas the TGHQ-induced post-translational stabilization of Nrf2 in HK-2 cells resulted in the expected upregulation of HO1 and NQO1 mRNA, TGHQ actually decreased Nrf2 mRNA in HL-60 cells, with a concomitant decrease in NQO1, but not HO1 mRNA. In summary, we define differences between the two cell types that might contribute to the engagement of the Nrf2 signaling pathways. By extension, these data provide evidence that Nrf2 is not necessarily activated in ROS-dependent cell death, and further delve into the knowledge that Nrf2 regulation sensing by cells might be achieved at solely transcriptional level, not related to its degradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • 2,3,5-tris(Glutathion-S-yl)hydroquinone
  • Nrf2
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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