Evidence for NQO2-mediated reduction of the carcinogenic estrogen ortho-quinones

Nilesh W. Gaikwad, Li Yang, Eleanor G. Rogan, Ercole L. Cavalieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The physiological function of NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1, DT-diaphorase) is to detoxify potentially reactive quinones by direct transfer of two electrons. A similar detoxification role has not been established for its homologue NRH:quinone oxidoreductase 2 (NQO2). Estrogen quinones, including estradiol(E2)-3,4-Q, generated by estrogen metabolism, are thought to be responsible for estrogen-initiated carcinogenesis. In this investigation, we have shown for the first time that NQO2 catalyzes the reduction of electrophilic estrogen quinones and thereby may act as a detoxification enzyme. ESI and MALDI mass spectrometric binding studies involving E2-3,4-Q with NQO2 clearly support the formation of an enzyme-substrate physical complex. The problem of spontaneous reduction of substrate by cofactor, benzyldihydronicotinamide riboside (BNAH), was successfully overcome by taking advantage of the ping-pong mechanism of NQO2 catalysis. The involvement of the enzyme in the reduction of E2-3,4-Q was further supported by addition of the inhibitor quercetin to the assay mixture. NQO2 is a newly discovered binding site (MT3) of melatonin. However, addition of melatonin to the assay mixture did not affect the catalytic activity of NQO2. Preliminary kinetic studies show that NQO2 is faster in reducing estrogen quinones than its homologue NQO1. Both UV and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry assays unequivocally corroborate the reduction of estrogen ortho-quinones by NQO2, indicating that it could be a novel target for prevention of breast cancer initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2009


  • Enzyme-substrate complex
  • Estrogen ortho-quinones
  • Kinetics
  • LC-MS
  • MT3
  • Melatonin
  • NQO2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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