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Role of Nrf2 signaling pathway in the radiation tolerance of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: an in vivo and in vitro study

Authors Wang T, Hu P, Li B, Zhang J, Cheng Y, Liang Y

Received 20 September 2016

Accepted for publication 21 December 2016

Published 23 March 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1809—1819


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Ashok Kumar Pandurangan

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr William Cho

Tao Wang, Peng Hu, Bo Li, Jun-Peng Zhang, Yu-Feng Cheng, Ye-Min Liang

Department of Radiotherapy, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, Jinan, People’s Republic of China

Abstract: We aimed to investigate the relationship between the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling pathway and the radiation tolerance of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). From January 2015 to January 2016, 117 patients with HNSCC were enrolled in our study and assigned into the sensitive and tolerance groups based on curative effect. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was conducted to measure protein expressions of Nrf2, heme oxygenase-1 (HO1), NADPH quinine oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) and glutathione S-transferase (GST). Human squamous cell carcinoma cell line, HSC-4, was induced by radiation to construct the HSC-4-radiation resistance (RR) cell line. HSC-4 and HSC-4-RR were also assigned into the blank, negative control (NC) and Nrf2 siRNA groups. Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8), quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and Western blotting were employed to detect cell viability, mRNA expression and protein expression, respectively, of Nrf2, HO1, NQO1 and GST. A total of 40 nude mice were equally assigned into the untreated, Nrf2 siRNA, radiation therapy (RT) and RT + Nrf2 siRNA groups. Compared with the sensitive group, patients in the tolerance group had upregulated Nrf2, HO1, NQO1 and GST expressions. HSC-4-RR cell line had improved cell viability and higher protein and mRNA expressions of Nrf2, HO1, NQO1 and GST compared with HSC-4 cell line. Compared with the HSC-4-NC and HSC-4-blank groups, the HSC-4-Nrf2 siRNA group had downregulated cell viability. Compared with the HSC-4-RR-NC and HSC-4-RR-blank groups, the HSC-4-RR-Nrf2 siRNA group had lower cell viability. However, the HSC-4-RR-Nrf2 siRNA group had elevated cell viability than the HSC-4-Nrf2 siRNA group. Tumor volume and tumor weight in the RT and RT + Nrf2 siRNA groups decreased evidently. The RT + Nrf2 siRNA group exhibited decreased tumor volume and tumor weight in comparison with the RT group. Our data demonstrated that downregulation of HO1, NQO1 and GST via inhibiting Nrf2 signaling pathway reduces the radiation tolerance of patients with HNSCC.

Keywords: nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, radiation tolerance, signaling pathway, heme oxygenase-1, NADPH quinine oxidoreductase 1, glutathione S-transferase

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