Promoter demethylation of Keap1 gene in human diabetic cataractous lenses

Periyasamy Palsamy, Masahiko Ayaki, Rajan Elanchezhian, Toshimichi Shinohara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Age-related cataracts (ARCs) are the major cause of visual impairments worldwide, and diabetic adults tend to have an earlier onset of ARCs. Although age is the strongest risk factor for cataracts, little is known how age plays a role in the development of ARCs. It is known that oxidative stress in the lens increases with age and more so in the lenses of diabetics. One of the central adaptive responses against the oxidative stresses is the activation of the nuclear transcriptional factor, NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), which then activates more than 20 different antioxidative enzymes. Kelch-like ECH associated protein 1 (Keap1) targets and binds to Nrf2 for proteosomal degradation. We hypothesized that hyperglycemia will lead to a dysfunction of the Nrf2-dependent antioxidative protection in the lens of diabetics. We studied the methylation status of the CpG islands in 15 clear and 21 diabetic cataractous lenses. Our results showed significant levels of demethylated DNA in the Keap1 promoter in the cataractous lenses from diabetic patients. In contrast, highly methylated DNA was found in the clear lens and tumorized human lens epithelial cell (HLEC) lines (SRA01/04). HLECs treated with a demethylation agent, 5-aza-2'deoxycytidine (5-Aza), had a 10-fold higher levels of Keap1 mRNA, 3-fold increased levels of Keap1 protein, produced higher levels of ROS, and increased cell death. Our results indicated that demethylation of the CpG islands in the Keap1 promoter will activate the expression of Keap1 protein, which then increases the targeting of Nrf2 for proteosomal degradation. Decreased Nrf2 activity represses the transcription of many antioxidant enzyme genes and alters the redox-balance towards lens oxidation. Thus, the failure of antioxidant protection due to demethylation of the CpG islands in the Keap1 promoter is linked to the diabetic cataracts and possibly ARCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-548
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 6 2012


  • CpG islands
  • DNA demethylation
  • Keap1 promoter
  • Nrf2 dependent antioxidant protection
  • Proteosomal degradation
  • Unfolded protein response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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