Maternal alcohol consumption is the leading known non-genetic cause of mental retardation. Growing evidence, including provision of protection against ethanol's teratogenesis by exogenous antioxidants, suggests a major contribution of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to ethanol-induced teratogenesis. These findings provide a foundation for attaining our long-term goal which is directed toward the development of more effective strategies against ethanol's teratogenesis;strategies based on upregulation of endogenous antioxidants in ethanol-exposed embryos. As a necessary prerequisite to reaching this goal, in this application, we propose to investigate the role of Nrf2 signaling in modulating ethanol-induced teratogenesis. The HYPOTHESIS to be tested is that chemically-induced transcriptional activation of Nrf2 and subsequent induction of a broad spectrum of detoxifying and antioxidant proteins can act as an endogenous protective system against ethanol-induced teratogenesis. To this end, the following specific aims will be addressed:
Aim1 : To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying ethanol-induced activation of the Nrf2 pathway in early mouse embryos. For this work, we will a) determine the effects of ethanol on Nrf2 mRNA expression, b) determine the effects of ethanol on Nrf2 protein stabilization, c) investigate the potential of ethanol to promote Nrf2 nuclear translocation, Nrf2-DNA binding and activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE), and d) determine the effects of Nrf2 activation on the induction of its downstream target detoxifying and antioxidant genes.
Aim 2 : To investigate the protective role of the Nrf2 pathway in ethanol-induced oxidative stress and teratogenicity using a Nrf2 knockout mouse model. This will be accomplished by determining: a) whether interference with Nrf2 signaling leads to an exaggerated effect by ethanol on early mouse embryos, b) if the expected enhanced severity of dysmorphology in Nrf2-/- mice results from a deficiency in antioxidant response, and c) whether antioxidants can attenuate ethanol-induced teratogenesis in Nrf2-/- mice.
Aim 3 : To define the role of maternal dietary Nrf2 inducer in conferring in vivo protection against ethanol-induced teratogenesis. The insights gained from this study will elucidate the role of the Nrf2 pathway in modulation of oxidative stress following ethanol insult during embryogenesis. In addition, the results from this study are expected to yield innovative strategies for prevention of ethanol's teratogenesis.

Public Health Relevance

The primary goal of this project is to define the role of Nrf2 signaling in modulating ethanol-induced oxidative injury and birth defects.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Neurotoxicology and Alcohol Study Section (NAL)
Program Officer
Hereld, Dale
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Illinois at Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Sun, Haijing; Chen, Xiaopan; Yuan, Fuqiang et al. (2014) Involvement of seven in absentia homolog-1 in ethanol-induced apoptosis in neural crest cells. Neurotoxicol Teratol 46:26-31
Chen, Xiaopan; Liu, Jie; Chen, Shao-yu (2013) Over-expression of Nrf2 diminishes ethanol-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in neural crest cells by inducing an antioxidant response. Reprod Toxicol 42:102-9
Chen, X; Liu, J; Chen, S-Y (2013) Sulforaphane protects against ethanol-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in neural crest cells by the induction of Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response. Br J Pharmacol 169:437-48
Chen, Shao-yu (2012) Analysis of Nrf2-mediated transcriptional induction of antioxidant response in early embryos. Methods Mol Biol 889:277-90
Zhang, Qi; Ma, Yan; Cheng, Yue-Fang et al. (2011) Involvement of reactive oxygen species in 2-methoxyestradiol-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma cells. Cancer Lett 313:201-10
Dong, Jian; Yan, Dong; Chen, Shao-Yu (2011) Stabilization of Nrf2 protein by D3T provides protection against ethanol-induced apoptosis in PC12 cells. PLoS One 6:e16845
Yan, Dong; Dong, Jian; Sulik, Kathleen K et al. (2010) Induction of the Nrf2-driven antioxidant response by tert-butylhydroquinone prevents ethanol-induced apoptosis in cranial neural crest cells. Biochem Pharmacol 80:144-9
Parnell, Scott E; Sulik, Kathleen K; Dehart, Deborah B et al. (2010) Reduction of ethanol-induced ocular abnormalities in mice through dietary administration of N-acetylcysteine. Alcohol 44:699-705
Dong, Jian; Sulik, Kathleen K; Chen, Shao-yu (2010) The role of NOX enzymes in ethanol-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in mouse embryos. Toxicol Lett 193:94-100
Dong, Jian; Sulik, Kathleen K; Chen, Shao-Yu (2008) Nrf2-mediated transcriptional induction of antioxidant response in mouse embryos exposed to ethanol in vivo: implications for the prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Antioxid Redox Signal 10:2023-33