Nrf2 Week #5: Elements

Two 2023 papers, starting with a cell study of Nrf2 regulating sulfur:

“We demonstrated that NRF2 increased intracellular persulfides by upregulating cystine transporter xCT encoded by Slc7a11, a well-known NRF2 target gene. Persulfides have been shown to play an important role in mitochondrial function.

Supplementation with glutathione trisulfide (GSSSG), which is a form of persulfide, elevated mitochondrial membrane potential, increased oxygen consumption rate (OCR), and promoted ATP production.

glutathione trisulfide

The sulfur oxidation pathway is thought to protect cells from sulfide toxicity and to support electron transport efficiency. This study clarified that facilitating persulfide production and sulfur metabolism in mitochondria by increasing cysteine availability is one of the mechanisms for NRF2-dependent mitochondrial activation.” “Contribution of NRF2 to sulfur metabolism and mitochondrial activity”

The second paper reviewed Nrf2 regulating iron:

“The central role of Nrf2 in dictating multiple facets of cellular stress response has defined the Nrf2 pathway as a general mediator of cell survival. Ferroptosis is an iron- and lipid peroxidation-dependent form of cell death. While Nrf2 was initially thought to have anti-ferroptotic function primarily through regulating antioxidant response, accumulating evidence has indicated that Nrf2 also exerts anti-ferroptotic effects via regulating key aspects of iron and lipid metabolism.


Iron exists in two redox states, ferrous (Fe2+) and ferric (Fe3+). While constant loss or gain of electrons to switch between two redox states makes iron useful for metabolic reactions, generation of free radicals due to an excess of the highly reactive Fe2+ form is toxic to cells. To prevent iron toxicity, free labile iron in the form of (Fe2+) is controlled by multiple systems at both systemic and cellular levels to maintain iron homeostasis.

Nrf2 regulates iron homeostasis by controlling both ferritin synthesis and degradation. Overall, Nrf2 regulation of iron homeostasis is a critical determinant of a cell’s sensitivity or resistance to ferroptosis, which is independent of its antioxidant function.” “Anti-Ferroptotic Effects of Nrf2: Beyond the Antioxidant Response”



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