Heme activates the heme oxygenase-1 gene in renal epithelial cells by stabilizing Nrf2

Jawed Alam, Erin Killeen, Pengfei Gong, Ryan Naquin, Bin Hu, Daniel Stewart, Julie R. Ingelfinger, Karl A. Nath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The mechanism of heme oxygenase-1 gene (ho-1) activation by heme in immortalized rat proximal tubular epithelial cells was examined. Analysis of the ho-1 promoter identified the heme-responsive sequences as the stress-response element (StRE), multiple copies of which are present in two enhancer regions, E1 and E2. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays identified Nrf2, MafG, ATF3, and Jun and Fos family members as StRE-binding proteins; binding of Nrf2, MafG, and ATF3 was increased in response to heme. Dominant-negative mutants of Nrf2 and Maf, but not of c-Fos and c-Jun, inhibited basal and heme-induced expression of an E1-controlled luciferase gene. Heme did not affect the transcription activity of Nrf2, dimerization between Nrf2 and MafG, or the level of MafG, but did stimulate expression of Nrf2. Heme did not influence the level of Nrf2 mRNA but increased the half-life of Nrf2 protein from ∼10 min to nearly 110 min. These results indicate that heme promotes stabilization of Nrf2, leading to accumulation of Nrf2·MafG dimers that bind to StREs to activate the ho-1 gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F743-F752
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number4 53-4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Nrf2 transcription factor
  • Protein stabilization
  • Stress-response element

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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