Nrf2 (Nfe2l2) governs cellular defenses against oxidative and electrophilic stresses and protects against chemical carcinogenesis. However, many cancers have been found to accumulate NRF2 protein, raising questions of precisely how Nrf2 contributes to carcinogenesis. In this report, we explored such questions in an established urethane-induced multistep model of lung carcinogenesis. Consistent with earlier observations, Nrf2-deficient (Nrf2-/-) mice exhibited a relative increase in tumor foci by 8 weeks after urethane administration. However, after 16 weeks, we observed a relative reduction in the number of tumors with more malignant characteristics in Nrf2-/- mice. Furthermore, all Nrf2+/+ tumors harbored activated mutations in Kras, whereas Nrf2-/- tumors were rarely associated with similar Kras mutations. Overall, our results established that Nrf2 has two roles during carcinogenesis, one of which is preventive during tumor initiation and the second that promotes malignant progression. These findings establish Nrf2 inhibitors as rational tools to prevent malignant progression in lung cancer, whereas Nrf2 activators are more suited for lung cancer prevention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research