RNAi screen for NRF2 inducers identifies targets that rescue primary lung epithelial cells from cigarette smoke induced radical stress

Frances-Rose Schumacher, Steffen Schubert, Michael Hannus, Birte Sönnichsen, Carina Ittrich, Stefan Kreideweiss, Thimo Kurz (Lead / Corresponding author), Jörg F. Rippmann

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Abstract

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a highly prevalent condition characterized by inflammation and progressive obstruction of the airways. At present, there is no treatment that suppresses the chronic inflammation of the disease, and COPD patients often succumb to the condition. Excessive oxidative stress caused by smoke inhalation is a major driving force of the disease. The transcription factor NRF2 is a critical player in the battle against oxidative stress and its function is impaired in COPD. Increasing NRF2 activity may therefore be a viable therapeutic option for COPD treatment. We show that down regulation of KEAP1, a NRF2 inhibitor, protects primary human lung epithelial cells from cigarette-smoke-extract (CSE) induced cell death in an established in vitro model of radical stress. To identify new potential drug targets with a similar effect, we performed a siRNA screen of the 'druggable' genome using a NRF2 transcriptional reporter cell line. This screen identified multiple genes that when down regulated increased NRF2 transcriptional activity and provided a survival benefit in the in vitro model. Our results suggest that inhibiting components of the ubiquitin-proteasome system will have the strongest effects on NRF2 transcriptional activity by increasing NRF2 levels. We also find that down regulation of the small GTPase Rab28 or the Estrogen Receptor ESRRA provide a survival benefit. Rab28 knockdown increased NRF2 protein levels, indicating that Rab28 may regulate NRF2 proteolysis. Conversely ESRRA down regulation increased NRF2 transcriptional activity without affecting NRF2 levels, suggesting a proteasome-independent mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0166352
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2016

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    Schumacher, F-R., Schubert, S., Hannus, M., Sönnichsen, B., Ittrich, C., Kreideweiss, S., Kurz, T., & Rippmann, J. F. (2016). RNAi screen for NRF2 inducers identifies targets that rescue primary lung epithelial cells from cigarette smoke induced radical stress. PLoS ONE, 11(11), [e0166352]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166352