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Genome-wide screening identifies new genes required for stress-induced phase 2 detoxification gene expression in animals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Monika Olahova, Emma Button, Johnathan Winter, Dr Elizabeth Veal



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: Phase 2 detoxification enzymes provide a vital defence against reactive oxygen species, including xenobiotic metabolites, which cause the oxidative damage involved in drug toxicity and many diseases. Hence, there is great interest in understanding how levels of these enzymes are regulated. CnC transcription factors, such as mammalian Nrf2, drive the expression of phase 2 enzymes and are activated as an important conserved response to oxidative stress and xenobiotics. For instance, the Caenorhabditis elegans Nrf2 orthologue, SKN-1, is activated in response to arsenite by the stress-activated p38-related kinase, PMK-1, leading to increased expression of phase 2 enzymes. Here we have used a genome-wide screening approach to identify other C. elegans genes that are required for stress-induced increases in phase 2 detoxification gene expression.Results: Taking advantage of the elevated phase 2 gene expression in a mutant lacking the peroxidase PRDX-2, we have identified many new genes that are required for stress-induced expression of gcs-1, a phase 2 enzyme critically required for glutathione synthesis. Significantly, these include genes previously implicated in resistance to ionizing radiation, longevity and responses to pathogenic infection. Many of these new candidate activators of gcs-1 are also required for the stress-induced intestinal expression of other phase 2 genes. However, intriguingly, our data suggest other factors may be specifically required for the stress-induced expression of gcs-1. Notably, we demonstrate that the candidate activator TIR-1(SARM1) and the MAPKKK NSY-1(Ask1) are required for the arsenite-induced activation of PMK-1. However, our data suggest that the majority of candidates participate in novel mechanisms to promote gcs-1 expression. For example, the E4 ubiquitin ligase UFD-2(UBE4B) is dispensable for PMK-1 activation but important for maintaining nuclear levels of SKN-1, the stress-induced expression of multiple SKN-1-target genes and oxidative stress resistance.Conclusions: Here we present the first functional, genome-wide analysis identifying genes that are required for activation of phase 2 detoxification genes in an animal. Our study identifies potential new regulators of Nrf2, reveals that additional mechanisms promote the stress-induced expression of specific phase 2 detoxification genes and provides new insight into the relationships between these universally important stress defences, oxidative stress resistance and aging.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Crook-McMahon HM, Olahova M, Button EL, Winter JJ, Veal EA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Biology

Year: 2014

Volume: 12

Online publication date: 14/08/2014

Acceptance date: 30/07/2014

Date deposited: 08/10/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1741-7007

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12915-014-0064-6


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Funder referenceFunder name
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Medical Research Council
Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre of the National Institute for Health Research
G0800082Medical Research Council (MRC)