Background: NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a basic leucine zipper transcriptional activator essential for the coordinate transcriptional induction of antioxidant enzymes and phase II drug metabolizing enzymes through the antioxidant response element/electrophile response element. The Nrf2-deficient mice were found to develop normally under standard laboratory conditions. However, upon closer examination, we found that aged female Nrf2-deficient mice displayed a shortened lifespan and developed severe glomerulonephritis. The present study investigated the glomerulonephritis findings in Nrf2-deficient mice.
Methods: To evaluate glomerular lesions of Nrf2-deficient mice, histological and functional analyses were performed. The amounts of serum immunoglobulins, anti-double-stranded (ds) DNA antibody, and lipid peroxidation using thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) also were measured.
Results: Nrf2-deficient female mice over 60 weeks of age developed severe nephritis characterized by cellular proliferation, lobular formation, crescent formation, and subepithelial electron-dense deposits. In immunofluorescent assays, Nrf2-deficient female mice showed mesangial deposits and massive granular deposits of IgG, IgM, and C3 along the capillary walls. Higher serum levels of IgG, anti-dsDNA antibody, lower creatinine clearance, and slight splenomegaly also were found in Nrf2-deficient female mice. A higher concentration of TBARS also was found in Nrf2-deficient female mice.
Conclusions: These data indicate that the aged Nrf2-deficient female mice develop lupus-like autoimmune nephritis and suggest that nrf2 is one of the genes determining susceptibility to autoimmune disease. Analysis of nephritis in the Nrf2-deficient female mouse may clarify the mechanisms leading to the development of lupus disease.