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Article

Challenges and Limitations of Targeting the Keap1-Nrf2 Pathway for Neurotherapeutics: Bach1 De-Repression to the Rescue

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2021. Vol. 13. P. 1-8.
Hushpulian D. M., Kaidery N. A., Ahuja M., Poloznikov A., Sharma S. M., Gazaryan I., Thomas B.

The Keap1-Nrf2 signaling axis is a validated and promising target for cellular defense and survival pathways. This minireview discusses the potential off-target effects and their impact on future drug development originating from Keap1-targeting small molecules that function as displacement activators of the redox-sensitive transcription factor Nrf2. We argue that small-molecule displacement activators, similarly to electrophiles, will release both Nrf2 and other Keap1 client proteins from the ubiquitin ligase complex. This non-specificity is likely unavoidable and may result in off-target effects during Nrf2 activation by targeting Keap1. The small molecule displacement activators may also target Kelch domains in proteins other than Keap1, causing additional off-target effects unless designed to ensure specificity for the Kelch domain only in Keap1. A potentially promising and alternative therapeutic approach to overcome this non-specificity emerging from targeting Keap1 is to inhibit the Nrf2 repressor Bach1 for constitutive activation of the Nrf2 pathway and bypass the Keap1-Nrf2 complex.