NFE2L1-mediated proteasome function protects from ferroptosis

Mol Metab. 2022 Mar:57:101436. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2022.101436. Epub 2022 Jan 6.


Objective: Ferroptosis continues to emerge as a novel modality of cell death with important therapeutic implications for a variety of diseases, most notably cancer and degenerative diseases. While susceptibility, initiation, and execution of ferroptosis have been linked to reprogramming of cellular lipid metabolism, imbalances in iron-redox homeostasis, and aberrant mitochondrial respiration, the detailed mechanisms of ferroptosis are still insufficiently well understood.

Methods and results: Here we show that diminished proteasome function is a new mechanistic feature of ferroptosis. The transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid-2, like-1 (NFE2L1) protects from ferroptosis by sustaining proteasomal activity. In cellular systems, loss of NFE2L1 reduced cellular viability after the induction of both chemically and genetically induced ferroptosis, which was linked to the regulation of proteasomal activity under these conditions. Importantly, this was reproduced in a Sedaghatian-type Spondylometaphyseal Dysplasia (SSMD) patient-derived cell line carrying mutated glutathione peroxidase-4 (GPX4), a critical regulator of ferroptosis. Also, reduced proteasomal activity was associated with ferroptosis in Gpx4-deficient mice. In a mouse model for genetic Nfe2l1 deficiency, we observed brown adipose tissue (BAT) involution, hyperubiquitination of ferroptosis regulators, including the GPX4 pathway, and other hallmarks of ferroptosis.

Conclusion: Our data highlight the relevance of the NFE2L1-proteasome pathway in ferroptosis. Manipulation of NFE2L1 activity might enhance ferroptosis-inducing cancer therapies as well as protect from aberrant ferroptosis in neurodegeneration, general metabolism, and beyond.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Ferroptosis; GPX4; Lipids; Proteasome; Ubiquitin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ferroptosis*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 1* / genetics
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 1* / metabolism
  • Phospholipid Hydroperoxide Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism


  • NF-E2-Related Factor 1
  • NFE2L1 protein, human
  • Nfe2L1 protein, mouse
  • Phospholipid Hydroperoxide Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex