Mouse cytochrome P450 2A5 (CYP2A5) is upregulated in various pathophysiological liver diseases and induced by structurally variable hepatotoxic chemicals. A putative common feature for all of these conditions is altered cellular redox status. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-like 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that is post-translationally regulated by oxidative stress and controls the transcription of numerous protective target genes. In the present study, we have extensively characterized the regulation of Cyp2a5 by Nrf2 and compared it to a well-characterized target gene Hmox1. The treatment of mouse primary hepatocytes with lead chloride, methylmercury chloride, or phenethyl isothiocyanate all leads to nuclear accumulation of Nrf2. Both CYP2A5 and HMOX1 were induced by all three compounds; however, HMOX1 responded more rapidly and transiently as compared to CYP2A5. Experiments in Nrf2(-/-) primary hepatocytes showed that Nrf2 is crucial for CYP2A5 induction but not for elevation of HMOX1. Both CYP2A5 and HMOX1 were upregulated by Nrf2 overexpression and downregulated by Keap1 or Bach1 overexpression. However, in all cases, CYP2A5 responded much more potently. Results in Nrf2-deficient animals showed that CYP2A5 expression is significantly attenuated in the absence of Nrf2, while expression of HMOX1 was unaffected. Therefore, Cyp2a5 joins the group of genes constitutively regulated by Nrf2. Our current results unequivocally show that expression of CYP2A5 is tightly controlled by Nrf2 in liver. Nrf2 is needed for constitutive expression of CYP2A5, and CYP2A5 is also sensitively upregulated by an increased level of Nrf2 protein. Therefore, CYP2A5 upregulation could be a useful indicator for hepatic activation of the Nrf2 pathway.
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