The Nrf2 gene encodes a transcription factor best known for regulating the expression of antioxidant and detoxification genes. A long list of small molecules has been reported to induce Nrf2 protein via Keap1 oxidation or alkylation. Many of these Nrf2 inducers exhibit off-target or toxic effects due to their nature as electrophiles. In searching for non-toxic Nrf2 inducers, we found that a culture medium change to fresh DMEM is capable of inducing Nrf2 protein in HeLa, HEK293, AC16 and MCF7 cells. Testing the components of DMEM led to the discovery of L-Cystine as an effective Nrf2 inducer. L-Cystine induces a dose-dependent increase of Nrf2 protein, from 0.1 to 1.6 mM. RNA-seq analyses and RT-PCR revealed an induction of multiple Nrf2 downstream genes, including NQO1, HMOX1, GCLC, GCLM, SRXN1, TXNRD1, AKR1C and OSGIN1 by 0.8 mM L-Cystine. The induction of Nrf2 protein was dependent on L-Cystine entering cells via the cystine/glutamate antiporter and the presence of Keap1. The half-life of Nrf2 protein increased from 19.4 min to 30.9 min with 0.8 mM L-Cystine treatment. L-Cystine was capable of eliciting cytoprotection by reducing ROS generation and protecting against oxidant- or doxorubicin-induced apoptosis. As an amino acid derivative, L-Cystine is considered a non-toxic Nrf2 inducer that exhibits the potential for protection against oxidative stress and tissue injury.
- amino acid
- antioxidant and detoxification genes
- oxidative stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)