Molecular mechanisms of lipopolysaccharide-mediated inhibition of glutathione synthesis in mice

Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 Mar;68:148-58. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.11.018. Epub 2013 Dec 1.


Endotoxemia correlates with the degree of liver failure and may participate in worsening of liver diseases. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS; synonymous with endotoxin) treatment in mice lowered the hepatic glutathione (GSH) level, which in turn is a variable that determines susceptibility to LPS-induced injury. We previously showed that LPS treatment in mice lowered hepatic expression of the rate-limiting enzyme in GSH synthesis, glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL). The aim of our current work was to determine the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for these changes. Studies were done using RAW cells (murine macrophages), in vivo LPS-treated mice, and mouse hepatocytes. We found that LPS treatment lowered GCL catalytic and modifier (Gclc and Gclm) subunit expression at the transcriptional level, which was unrelated to alterations in nitric oxide production or induction of NF-κB/p65 subunit. The key mechanism was a decrease in sumoylation of nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and MafG, which is required for their heterodimerization and subsequent binding and trans-activation of the antioxidant-response element (ARE) present in the promoter region of these genes that is essential for their expression. LPS treatment lowered markedly the expression of ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 9 (Ubc9), which is required for sumoylation. Similar findings also occurred in liver after in vivo LPS treatment and in LPS-treated mouse hepatocytes. Overexpression of Ubc9 protected against LPS-mediated inhibition of Gclc and Gclm expression in RAW cells and hepatocytes. In conclusion, LPS-mediated lowering of GCL expression in hepatocytes and macrophages is due to lowering of sumoylation of Nrf2 and MafG, leading to reduced heterodimerization, binding, and trans-activation of ARE.

Keywords: Antioxidant response element; Free radicals; Glutamate–cysteine ligase; MafG; Nrf2; Sumoylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / biosynthesis*
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / genetics
  • Glutathione / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis*
  • Glutathione / genetics
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Liver Failure / chemically induced
  • Liver Failure / metabolism*
  • Liver Failure / pathology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • MafG Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Sumoylation


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • MafG Transcription Factor
  • Mafg protein, mouse
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nfe2l2 protein, mouse
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione