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Your Environment. Your Health.

NRF TRANSCRIPTION FACTORS IN ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS AND DISEASE INTERVENTION

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Principal Investigator: Zhang, Donna D
Institute Receiving Award University Of Arizona
Location Tucson, AZ
Grant Number R35ES031575
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 01 Jun 2020 to 29 Feb 2028
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Title: NRF transcription factors in Environmental Stress and Disease Intervention PROJECT SUMMARY My broad research program includes in-depth mechanistic investigations of arsenic pathogenesis/NRF signaling and the translation of basic mechanistic knowledge to preclinical drug development. Chronic exposure to arsenic, an environmental contaminant that affects an estimated 160 million people worldwide, is a global public health concern correlated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, as well as type II diabetes. However, a critical gap still exists in our knowledge concerning the precise pathologic mechanisms of arsenic, and generation of viable therapeutic approaches. Over the past decade, my research has revealed that dysregulation of the NRF2 signaling pathway is a key driver of arsenic-based pathologies. Accordingly, my overarching vision is to harness our body's defense systems—specifically the NRF2 response—to alleviate the damage or pathogenesis induced by arsenic. Transcription factor NRF2 controls the cellular stress response following exposure to environmental insults. Since the discovery of the NRF2 pathway in 1999, NRF2 has been viewed as a “good” transcription factor that protects against oxidative stress-related diseases, including cancer, and controlled activation of NRF2 using NRF2-inducing compounds to prevent cancer initiation is well recognized. However, in 2008 my lab unveiled the “dark side” of NRF2—uncontrolled NRF2 activation is a driver of cancer progression, metastasis, and resistance to therapy. Furthermore, recent unpublished work from my lab has indicated that prolonged upregulation of NRF2 may also contribute to the diabetogenic effects of arsenic. Therefore, specific NRF2 inhibitors will be powerful probes for dissecting the “dark side” role of NRF2 in disease. A big challenge in the field is that there are no NRF2-specific inhibitors available despite the efforts made. Therefore, the key scientific questions that need to be addressed, and as such are the focus of this R35 proposal, include: (i) the molecular basis of diseases associated with arsenic exposure (focusing on lung cancer and type II diabetes); (ii) the effects of environmental stress on the NRF2 signaling network; (iii) the ways by which we can harness the NRF2 response to improve human health; and (iv) the distinct roles of the cap'n'collar (CNC) family members NRF1, NRF2, and NRF3. My lab will pursue answers to these questions through innovative and rigorous experimental approaches, which will allow us to fill current gaps, advance environmental health research, and ultimately improve human health.
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications See publications associated with this Grant.
Program Officer Leslie Reinlib
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