Forkhead box o as a sensor, mediator, and regulator of redox signaling

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Mar 15;14(6):1093-106. doi: 10.1089/ars.2010.3403. Epub 2010 Sep 20.


The forkhead box O (FOXO) family of transcription factors regulates a variety of cellular programs, including cell cycle arrest, reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging, and apoptosis, and are of key importance in the decision over cell fate. In animal model systems it has been shown that FOXO is involved in the regulation of long lifespan. FOXO activity is tightly controlled by the insulin signaling pathway and by a multitude of ROS-induced posttranslational modifications. In the cell, ROS levels can be sensed by virtue of stimulatory and inhibitory oxidative modification of cysteine residues within proteins that control various signaling cascades. Recently, it was shown that cysteines in FOXO can also act as sensors of the local redox state. In this review we have outlined the cysteine-dependent redox switches that regulate both the insulin and ROS signaling pathways upstream of FOXO. Further, we describe how FOXO controls ROS levels by transcriptional regulation of a multilayered antioxidant system. Finally, we will discuss how cysteine-based redox signaling to FOXO could play a role in fine-tuning the optimal cellular response to ROS to control organismal lifespan.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Cysteine