Nrf2 in TIME: The emerging role of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 in the tumor immune microenvironment

Jialin Feng, Oliver J. Read, Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) mediates the cellular antioxidant response, allowing adaptation and survival under conditions of oxidative, electrophilic and inflammatory stress, and has a role in metabolism, inflammation and immunity. Activation of Nrf2 provides broad and long-lasting cytoprotection, and is often hijacked by cancer cells, allowing their survival under unfavorable conditions. Moreover, Nrf2 activation in established human tumors is associated with resistance to chemo-, radio-, and immunotherapies. In addition to cancer cells, Nrf2 activation can also occur in tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and facilitate an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive tumor immune microenvironment (TIME). Several cancer cell-derived metabolites, such as itaconate, L-kynurenine, lactic acid and hyaluronic acid, play an important role in modulating the TIME and tumor-TAMs crosstalk, and have been shown to activate Nrf2. The effects of Nrf2 in TIME are context-depended, and involve multiple mechanisms, including suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased expression of programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1), macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) and kynureninase, accelerated catabolism of cytotoxic labile heme, and facilitating the metabolic adaptation of TAMs. This understanding presents both challenges and opportunities for strategic targeting of Nrf2 in cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-152
Number of pages11
JournalMolecules and Cells
Issue number3
Early online date17 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


  • anti-tumor immunity
  • immunosuppression
  • Keap1
  • Nrf2
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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