Nrf2 inhibits oxaliplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy via protection of mitochondrial function

Free Radic Biol Med. 2018 May 20:120:13-24. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2018.03.007. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Oxaliplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy (OIPN) is a severe, dose-limiting toxicity associated with cancer chemotherapy. The efficacy of antioxidant administration in OIPN is debatable, as the promising preliminary results obtained with a number of antioxidants have not been confirmed in larger clinical trials. Besides its antioxidant activity, the transcription factor, nuclear factor-erythroid 2 (NF-E2) p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) plays a crucial role in the maintenance of mitochondrial homeostasis, and mitochondrial dysfunction is a key contributor to OIPN. Here, we have investigated the protective properties of Nrf2 in OIPN. Nrf2-/- mice displayed severe mechanical allodynia and cold sensitivity and thus experienced increased peripheral nervous system injury compared to Nrf2+/+ mice. Furthermore, Nrf2 knockout aggravated oxaliplatin-induced reactive oxygen species production, decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential, led to abnormal intracellular calcium levels, and induced cytochrome c-related apoptosis and overexpression of the TRP protein family. Sulforaphane-induced activation of the Nrf2 signaling pathway alleviated morphological alterations, mitochondrial dysfunction in dorsal root ganglion neurons, and nociceptive sensations in mice. Our findings reveal that Nrf2 may play a critical role in ameliorating OIPN, through protection of mitochondrial function by alleviating oxidative stress and inhibiting TRP protein family expression. This suggests that pharmacological or therapeutic activation of Nrf2 may be used to prevent or slow down the progression of OIPN.

Keywords: DRG; Mitochondrial homeostasis; Nrf2; Oxaliplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy; TRP channel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Oxaliplatin / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Nfe2l2 protein, mouse
  • Oxaliplatin