4 years ago

The NRF2 transcription factor plays a dual role in colorectal cancer: A systematic review

T. Fernandez-Villa, V. Martín, J. Alonso-Molero, A. J. Molina, C. Gonzalez-Donquiles, L. Vilorio-Marqués

by C. Gonzalez-Donquiles, J. Alonso-Molero, T. Fernandez-Villa, L. Vilorio-Marqués, A. J. Molina, V. Martín


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and is influenced by the interplay of various factors, including a very strong genetic component. For instance, incorrect mitochondrial biogenesis is correlated with increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Thus, it is important to understand the consequences of changes in both the expression and the correct function of the transcription factors that regulate mitochondrial biogenesis, namely NRF2.


The main objective of this paper is to characterise the relationship between NRF2 and colorectal cancer by compiling data from an exhaustive literature search.


Information was obtained by defining specific search terms and searching in several databases. After a strict selection procedure, data were tabulated and the relationships between articles were assessed by measuring heterogeneity and by constructing conceptual maps.

Results and discussion

We found a general consensus in the literature that the presence of oxidizing agents as well as the inhibition of the NRF2 repressor Keap1 maintain NRF2 expression at basal levels. This predominantly exerts a cytoprotective effect on cells and decreases risk of colorectal cancer. However, if NRF2 is inhibited, protection against external agents disappears and risk of colorectal cancer increases. Interestingly, colorectal cancer risk is also increased when NRF2 becomes overexpressed. In this case, the increased risk arises from NRF2-induced inflammation and resistance to chemotherapy.


The proper basal function of NRF2 and Keap1 are essential for preventing oncogenic processes in the colon. Consequently, any disruption to the expression of these genes can promote the genesis and progression of colon cancer.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177549

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