Transcription factor Nrf2 protects hepatocytes against various toxicants by upregulating cytoprotective genes. The heme synthesis inhibitor 3, 5-diethoxycarbonyl-1, 4-dihydrocollidine (DDC) leads to liver injury around the portal vein, unlike other groups of toxicants that cause hemorrhage and necrosis in the centrilobular area. To examine whether and how Nrf2 protects livers from the injury, we fed DDC to Nrf2 knockout (Nrf2KO), wild-type (WT), Keap1 flox/flox (Keap1-knockdown; Keap1KD), and liver-specific Keap1 knockout (Keap1-Alb) mice, as these lines of mice exhibit stepwise increases in Nrf2 protein expression levels. Liver-specific Keap1::Nrf2 double-knockout (Keap1::Nrf2-Alb) mice were also exploited to examine the contribution of Nrf2. Two weeks after DDC feeding, Keap1-Alb mice were fully recovered from body weight loss, but the WT and Nrf2KO mice were not. The liver-to-body-weight ratio of Keap1-Alb mice was significantly larger than that of WT and Nrf2KO mice. Two indicators of hepatotoxicity, alanine aminotransferase and bilirubin in plasma, were both elevated in WT mice, but downregulated in Keap1-Alb mice after the DDC-feeding. DDC-induced porphyrin accumulation was reduced in the livers of Keap1-Alb and Keap1KD mice compared with that of WT mice. When assessed by the Nqo1 level, Nrf2 expression was further enhanced by DDC in Keap1-Alb mice, suggesting that DDC may have a Keap1 independent potential to activate Nrf2. Genetic activation of Nrf2 in Keap1-Alb mice increased the extracellular excretion of porphyrins, but contrary to our expectation, hepatic damages in Nrf2KO mice appeared to be similar to that of WT mice. Based on these observations, we conclude that Nrf2 activation protects livers against DDC-elicited hepatotoxicity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas