Nrf2 is a key regulator of the antioxidant defense system, and pharmacological Nrf2 activation is a promising strategy for cancer prevention and promotion of tissue repair. Here we show, however, that activation of Nrf2 in fibroblasts induces cellular senescence. Using a combination of transcriptomics, matrix proteomics, chromatin immunoprecipitation and bioinformatics we demonstrate that fibroblasts with activated Nrf2 deposit a senescence-promoting matrix, with plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 being a key inducer of the senescence program. In vivo, activation of Nrf2 in fibroblasts promoted re-epithelialization of skin wounds, but also skin tumorigenesis. The pro-tumorigenic activity is of general relevance, since Nrf2 activation in skin fibroblasts induced the expression of genes characteristic for cancer-associated fibroblasts from different mouse and human tumors. Therefore, activated Nrf2 qualifies as a marker of the cancer-associated fibroblast phenotype. These data highlight the bright and the dark sides of Nrf2 and the need for time-controlled activation of this transcription factor.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)