Tianjin Key Laboratory of Radiation Medicine and Molecular Nuclear Medicine, Institute of Radiation Medicine, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Tianjin 300192, China.
#These authors contributed equally: Xiaohui Sun, Mingxin Dong.
Background: Radiation resistance is the main limitation of the application of radiotherapy. Ionizing radiation (IR) kills cancer cells mainly by causing DNA damage, particularly double-strand breaks (DSBs). Radioresistant cancer cells have developed the robust capability of DNA damage repair to survive IR. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) has been correlated with radiation resistance. We previously reported a novel function of NRF2 as an ATR activator in response to DSBs. However, little is known about the mechanism that how NRF2 regulates DNA damage repair and radiation resistance.
Methods: The TCGA database and tissue microarray were used to analyze the correlation between NRF2 and the prognosis of lung cancer patients. The radioresistant lung cancer cells were constructed, and the role of NRF2 in radiation resistance was explored by in vivo and in vitro experiments. Immunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence and extraction of chromatin fractions were used to explore the underlying mechanisms.
Results: In this study, the TCGA database and clinical lung cancer samples showed that high expression of NRF2 was associated with poor prognosis in lung cancer patients. We established radioresistant lung cancer cells expressing NRF2 at high levels, which showed increased antioxidant and DNA repair abilities. In addition, we found that NRF2 can be involved in the DNA damage response independently of its antioxidant function. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that NRF2 promoted the phosphorylation of replication protein A 32 (RPA32), and DNA topoisomerase 2-binding protein 1 (TOPBP1) was recruited to DSB sites in an NRF2-dependent manner.
Conclusion: This study explored the novel role of NRF2 in promoting radiation resistance by cooperating with RPA32 and TOPBP1 to activate the ATR-CHK1 signaling pathway. In addition, the findings of this study not only provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the radiation resistance of lung cancer cells but also validate NRF2 as a potential target for radiotherapy.
Keywords: Ionizing radiation, NRF2, NSCLC, ATR, RPA32, TOPBP1