Nrf2 and Parkin-Hsc70 regulate the expression and protein stability of p62/SQSTM1 under hypoxia

Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 8;12(1):21265. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-25784-0.


Solid tumors often contain regions with very low oxygen concentrations or hypoxia resulting from altered metabolism, uncontrolled proliferation, and abnormal tumor blood vessels. Hypoxia leads to resistance to both radio- and chemotherapy and a predisposition to tumor metastases. Under hypoxia, sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1/p62), a multifunctional stress-inducible protein involved in various cellular processes, such as autophagy, is down-regulated. The hypoxic depletion of p62 is mediated by autophagic degradation. We herein demonstrated that hypoxia down-regulated p62 in the hepatoma cell line Hep3B at the transcriptional and post-translational levels. At the transcriptional level, hypoxia down-regulated p62 mRNA by inhibiting nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). The overexpression of Nrf2 and knockdown of Siah2, a negative regulator of Nrf2 under hypoxia, diminished the effects of hypoxia on p62 mRNA. At the post-translational level, the proteasome inhibitor MG132, but not the lysosomal inhibitors ammonium chloride and bafilomycin, prevented the hypoxic depletion of p62, suggesting the involvement of the proteasome pathway. Under hypoxia, the expression of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin was up-regulated in a hypoxia-inducible factor 1α-dependent manner. Parkin ubiquitinated p62 and led to its proteasomal degradation, ensuring low levels of p62 under hypoxia. We demonstrated that the effects of Parkin on p62 required heat shock cognate 71 kDa protein (Hsc70). We also showed that the overexpression of Nrf2 and knockdown of Parkin or Hsc70 induced the accumulation of p62 and reduced the viability of cells under hypoxia. We concluded that a decrease in p62, which involves regulation at the transcriptional and post-translational levels, is critical for cell survival under hypoxia. The present results show the potential of targeting Nrf2/Parkin-Hsc70-p62 as a novel strategy to eradicate hypoxic solid tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypoxia
  • Neoplasms*
  • Protein Stability
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sequestosome-1 Protein / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / genetics


  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SQSTM1 protein, human
  • Sequestosome-1 Protein