Impaired redox signaling and antioxidant gene expression in endothelial cells in diabetes: a role for mitochondria and the nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2-Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 defense pathway

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Feb 1;14(3):469-87. doi: 10.1089/ars.2010.3283. Epub 2010 Aug 20.


Type 2 diabetes is an age-related disease associated with vascular pathologies, including severe blindness, renal failure, atherosclerosis, and stroke. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), especially mitochondrial ROS, play a key role in regulating the cellular redox status, and an overproduction of ROS may in part underlie the pathogenesis of diabetes and other age-related diseases. Cells have evolved endogenous defense mechanisms against sustained oxidative stress such as the redox-sensitive transcription factor nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), which regulates antioxidant response element (ARE/electrophile response element)-mediated expression of detoxifying and antioxidant enzymes and the cystine/glutamate transporter involved in glutathione biosynthesis. We hypothesize that diminished Nrf2/ARE activity contributes to increased oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in the vasculature leading to endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and abnormal angiogenesis observed in diabetes. Sustained hyperglycemia further exacerbates redox dysregulation, thereby providing a positive feedback loop for severe diabetic complications. This review focuses on the role that Nrf2/ARE-linked gene expression plays in regulating endothelial redox homeostasis in health and type 2 diabetes, highlighting recent evidence that Nrf2 may provide a therapeutic target for countering oxidative stress associated with vascular disease and aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Electron Transport
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Response Elements
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NADPH Oxidases