Inhibition of protein synthesis is a general measurement of toxicity. Evolutionarily while inhibition of protein synthesis serves to save energy and prevents aberrant proteins being made, increasing evidence suggests that selective protein translation occurs and determines the cell fate. Arsenic and many environmental toxicants are known to induce oxidative stress. We found that treatment of human cells in culture with arsenic or oxidants causes rapid elevation Nrf2 protein due to de novo protein translation. Nrf2 encodes a transcription factor regulating a network of antioxidant and detoxification genes, functioning as a safeguard in multiple organ systems. Nrf2 knockout mice show an increased sensitivity to tissue injury by arsenic. Understanding how cells orchestrate molecular events leading to de novo Nrf2 protein translation under oxidative stress is important for dialing up this pathway for organ protection. Human Nrf2 gene encodes an mRNA species containing 555 nucleotides (nt) of 5'Untranslated Region (5'UTR). Several genes containing an Internal Ribosomal Entry Site (IRES) in 5'UTR can bypass 5'7-methyl Guanine cap dependent translation and undergo stress induced protein translation. We found a consensus G-quadruplex sequence in -195 to - 168 nucleotide region of Nrf2 5'UTR. An RNA fragment from the region forms the 3-D structure of G-quadruplex as measured by Circular Dichroism (CD), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay and Dimethyl Sulfate footprinting. LC-MS/MS based proteomics has led to the discovery of EF1a as a binding partner of Nrf2 5'UTR G-quadruplex. At the cellular level, oxidants cause an increased association of EF1a with Nrf2 5'UTR G-quadruplex and eliminating the G- quadruplex structure prohibited the activation of Nrf2 5'UTR. Since an RNA strand in cells is rarely free of protein binding, the G-quadruplex structure forms in solution from a naked RNA fragment, and oxidation of Guanine does not affect G-quadruplex formation, we hypothesize that oxidative stress causes changes in the proteins binding to Nrf2 5'UTR at the cellular level, resulting in G-quadruplex formation and recruitment of specific proteins for interaction with eIFs to initiate Nrf2 protein translation. Ai 1 will define the impact of oxidative stress on proteins binding to Nrf2 5'UTR at the cellular level. Proteins binding to Nrf2 5'UTR will be isolated from cells with or without oxidative stress for identification by LC-MS/MS based proteomics.
Aim 2 will address the interplay of EF1a with translational machinery in oxidative stress induced Nrf2 protein translation. Whether EF1a binding to Nrf2 5'UTR causes recruitment of translational machinery will be addressed by examining the interaction of EF1a/Nrf2 mRNA with eIFs, ribosomes and ribosome associated proteins.
Aim 3 will confirm the biological significance of EF1a interaction with Nrf2 5'UTR in Nrf2 protein translation, cell survival and protection against arsenic toxicity. Using a G-quadruplex aptamer and pharmacological enhancers or inhibitors of G-quadruplex, we will test the effect of de novo Nrf2 protein translation in cell survival and mouse tissue injury by arsenic.
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