Aldo-Keto Reductase Regulation by the Nrf2 System: Implications for Stress Response, Chemotherapy Drug Resistance, and Carcinogenesis
Human aldo-keto reductases (AKRs) are NAD(P)H-dependent oxidoreductases that convert aldehydes and ketones to primary and secondary alcohols for subsequent conjugation reactions and can be referred to as “phase 1” enzymes. Among all the human genes regulated by the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway, they are consistently the most overexpressed in response to Nrf2 activators. Although these enzymes play clear cytoprotective roles and deal effectively with carbonyl stress, their upregulation by the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway also has a potential dark-side, which can lead to chemotherapeutic drug resistance and the metabolic activation of lung carcinogens (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). They also play determinant roles in 4-(methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone metabolism to R - and S -4-(methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol. The overexpression of AKR genes as components of the “smoking gene” battery raises the issue as to whether this is part of a smoking stress response or acquired susceptibility to lung cancer. Human AKR genes also regulate retinoid, prostaglandin, and steroid hormone metabolism and can regulate the local concentrations of ligands available for nuclear receptors (NRs). The prospect exists that signaling through the Keap1/Nrf2 system can also effect NR signaling, but this has remained largely unexplored. We present the case that chemoprevention through the Keap1/Nrf2 system may be context dependent and that the Nrf2 “dose-response curve” for electrophilic and redox balance may not be monotonic. Graphic Abstract
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