Requirement and epigenetics reprogramming of Nrf2 in suppression of tumor promoter TPA-induced mouse skin cell transformation by sulforaphane

Zheng Yuan Su, Chengyue Zhang, Jong Hun Lee, Limin Shu, Tien Yuan Wu, Tin Oo Khor, Allan H. Conney, Yao Ping Lu, Ah Ng Tony Kong

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116 Citations (Scopus)


Nrf2 is a transcription factor that plays critical roles in regulating the expression of cellular defensive antioxidants and detoxification enzymes. However, the role of Nrf2 and Nrf2's epigenetics reprogramming in skin tumor transformation is unknown. In this study, we investigated the inhibitory role and epigenetics of Nrf2 on tumor transformation induced by 12-O- tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) in mouse skin epidermal JB6 (JB6 P+) cells and the anticancer effect of sulforaphane (SFN), an isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables. After five days of treatment, SFN significantly inhibited TPA-induced JB6 cellular transformation and SFN enhanced the nuclear translocation of Nrf2 and increased the mRNA and protein levels of the Nrf2 target genes HO-1, NQO1 and UGT1A1. Knockdown of Nrf2 attenuated the induction of Nrf2, HO-1 and NQO1 by SFN, enhanced TPA-induced colony formation and dampened the inhibitory effect of SFN on TPA-induced JB6 transformation. Epigenetics investigation using bisulfite genomic sequencing showed that SFN decreased the methylation ratio of the first 15 CpGs of the Nrf2 gene promoter, which was corroborated by increased Nrf2 mRNA expression. Furthermore, SFN strongly reduced the protein expression of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b). SFN also inhibited the total histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity and decreased the protein expression of HDAC1, HDAC2, HDAC3 and HDAC4. Collectively, these results suggest that the anti-cancer effect of SFN against TPA-induced neoplastic transformation of mouse skin could involve the epigenetic reprogramming of anti-cancer genes such as Nrf2, leading to the epigenetic reactivation of Nrf2 and the subsequent induction of downstream target genes involved in cellular protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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