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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2013, Article ID 798401, 11 pages
Research Article

The NRF2 Activation and Antioxidative Response Are Not Impaired Overall during Hyperoxia-Induced Lung Epithelial Cell Death

1Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA
2Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA
3Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Greenebaum Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA

Received 31 January 2013; Accepted 25 March 2013

Academic Editor: Hye-Youn Cho

Copyright © 2013 Haranatha R. Potteti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Lung epithelial and endothelial cell death caused by pro-oxidant insults is a cardinal feature of acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS) patients. The NF-E2-related factor 2 (NRF2) activation in response to oxidant exposure is crucial to the induction of several antioxidative and cytoprotective enzymes that mitigate cellular stress. Since prolonged exposure to hyperoxia causes cell death, we hypothesized that chronic hyperoxia impairs NRF2 activation, resulting in cell death. To test this hypothesis, we exposed nonmalignant small airway epithelial cells (AECs) to acute (1–12 h) and chronic (36–48 h) hyperoxia and evaluated cell death, NRF2 nuclear accumulation and target gene expression, and NRF2 recruitment to the endogenous HMOX1 and NQO1 promoters. As expected, hyperoxia gradually induced death in AECs, noticeably and significantly by 36 h; ~60% of cells were dead by 48 h. However, we unexpectedly found increased expression levels of NRF2-regulated antioxidative genes and nuclear NRF2 in AECs exposed to chronic hyperoxia as compared to acute hyperoxia. Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays revealed an increased recruitment of NRF2 to the endogenous HMOX1 and NQO1 promoters in AECs exposed to acute or chronic hyperoxia. Thus, our findings demonstrate that NRF2 activation and antioxidant gene expression are functional during hyperoxia-induced lung epithelial cell death and that chronic hyperoxia does not impair NRF2 signaling overall.