NRF2 is a transcription factor serving as a master regulator of the expression of many genes involved in cellular responses to oxidative and other stresses. In the absence of stress, NRF2 is constantly synthesized but maintained at low levels as it is targeted by KEAP1 for ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation. NRF2 binds KEAP1 mainly through a conserved "ETGE" motif that has also been found in several other proteins, such as DPP3, which has been shown to bind KEAP1 and enhance NRF2 function upon overexpression. Here we demonstrate the interaction between endogenous DPP3 and endogenous KEAP1. We further show that the DPP3-KEAP1 interaction is strongly induced by hydrogen peroxide and that DPP3 is required for timely NRF2 induction and nuclear accumulation in the estrogen receptor (ER)-positive MCF7 breast cancer cells. Moreover, we present evidence that the binding of DPP3 to KEAP1 stabilizes the latter. Finally, we show that DPP3 is overexpressed in breast cancer and that elevated levels of DPP3 mRNA correlate with increased NRF2 downstream gene expression and poor prognosis, particularly for ER-positive breast cancer. Our studies reveal novel insights into the regulation of NRF2 and identify DPP3 and an NRF2 transcriptional signature as potential biomarkers for breast cancer prognosis and treatment.
- Received August 10, 2016.
- Revision received March 24, 2017.
- Accepted March 31, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.