FEB 24, 2020 12:06 PM PST

Could NRF2 trigger hepatomegaly?

Research published today in the Journal of Hepatology suggests that the protein responsible for antioxidant defenses in humans may adversely affect the liver. The research was led by postdoctoral fellows Feng He, Ph.D., and Laura Antonucci, Ph.D., and senior author Michael Karin, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Pathology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

NRF2 (Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) and its inhibitor, KEAP1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1), are crucial for responding to stress from oxidants, meaning reactive molecules or compounds that remove electrons from other molecules. As Science Daily reports, “When cells are healthy and unstressed by oxidants, levels of NRF2 are kept low by KEAP1, which is constantly degrading NRF2. But in response to oxidative stress, KEAP1 is inactivated, releasing NRF2 from its inhibitory grip. NRF2 levels subsequently build within the cell with the protein entering the nucleus, where it stimulates expression of numerous genes that code for enzymes and other proteins that detoxify harmful oxidants.”

Karin explains the importance of NRF2 and KEAP1, saying, "By being able to reduce the devastating impact of oxidative stress, the KEAP1-NRF2 system has long been thought to protect us from cancer and aging. And much effort has been dedicated to the development of NRF2 activators for cancer prevention and age-related diseases. Many such compounds are being sold at health food stores as anti-aging remedies."

However, the research from Karin and his colleagues suggests that continued exposure to NRF2 and KEAP1 could enlarge the liver and put individuals at risk of fatty liver disease. The team conducted their study on mice models and showed that mice continuously exposed to NRF2 triggered hepatomegaly in the animals. Hepatomegaly refers to an enlargement of the liver that can typically result from insulin overdosing, exposure to various toxins, cirrhosis and liver cancer. These findings have significant implications for the treatment and reversal of hepatomegaly, which currently impacts over 200 million people globally.

Photo: Pixabay

Sources: Journal of Hepatology, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 13, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Friend or Foe? New Cancer-Tracking Pen Guides Surgeons.
JUL 13, 2021
Friend or Foe? New Cancer-Tracking Pen Guides Surgeons.
Researchers have developed the first diagnostic “pen” that acts as a guide for surgeons, helping them distin ...
AUG 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Rethinking the Cause of Mutations That Lead to Melanoma
AUG 01, 2021
Rethinking the Cause of Mutations That Lead to Melanoma
Throughout our lives, new cells often replace the ones that become damaged or worn out. As cells divide, they have to re ...
SEP 06, 2021
Cancer
A New Biomarker to Personalize Breast Cancer Therapy
SEP 06, 2021
A New Biomarker to Personalize Breast Cancer Therapy
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 280,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer ...
OCT 07, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Color-Changing Slides Improve Accuracy in Cancer Diagnosis
OCT 07, 2021
Color-Changing Slides Improve Accuracy in Cancer Diagnosis
When cancer is diagnosed, a sample has to be taken from a patient, treated, and analyzed. Researchers have now modified ...
OCT 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
DNA Can Reveal Treatments for Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smoked' Patients
OCT 10, 2021
DNA Can Reveal Treatments for Lung Cancer in 'Never-Smoked' Patients
There is a well-known causal connection between smoking and lung cancer, and most research on lung cancer has been focus ...
OCT 25, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Labroots 2021 Cell Biology Virtual Event Poster Winner: 5-Azacytidine Treatment & Lung Cancer
OCT 25, 2021
The Labroots 2021 Cell Biology Virtual Event Poster Winner: 5-Azacytidine Treatment & Lung Cancer
Labroots virtual events are a great place to share research and learn about others work. These events feature participan ...
Loading Comments...