Thioredoxin reductase-1 levels are associated with NRF2 pathway activation and tumor recurrence in non-small cell lung cancer

Marina Delgobo, Rosângela Mayer Gonçalves, Marco Antônio Delazeri, Marcelo Falchetti, Alessandro Zandoná, Raquel Nascimento das Neves, Karoline Almeida, Adriane Cristina Fagundes, Daniel Pens Gelain, João Isidro Fracasso, Guilherme Baroni de Macêdo, Leonardo Priori, Nicklas Bassani, Alexander James Roy Bishop, Cassiano Mateus Forcelini, José Cláudio Fonseca Moreira, Alfeu Zanotto-Filho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Activating mutations in the KEAP1/NRF2 pathway characterize a subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) associated with chemoresistance and poor prognosis. We herein evaluated the relationship between 64 oxidative stress-related genes and overall survival data from 35 lung cancer datasets. Thioredoxin reductase-1 (TXNRD1) stood out as the most significant predictor of poor outcome. In a cohort of NSCLC patients, high TXNRD1 protein levels correlated with shorter disease-free survival and distal metastasis-free survival post-surgery, including a subset of individuals treated with platinum-based adjuvant chemotherapy. Bioinformatics analysis revealed that NSCLC tumors harboring genetic alterations in the NRF2 pathway (KEAP1, NFE2L2 and CUL3 mutations, and NFE2L2 amplification) overexpress TXNRD1, while no association with EGFR, KRAS, TP53 and PIK3CA mutations was found. In addition, nuclear accumulation of NRF2 overlapped with upregulated TXNRD1 protein in NSCLC tumors. Functional cell assays and gene dependency analysis revealed that NRF2, but not TXNRD1, has a pivotal role in KEAP1 mutant cells’ survival. KEAP1 mutants overexpress TXNRD1 and are less susceptible to the cytotoxic effects of the TXNRD1 inhibitor auranofin when compared to wild-type cell lines. Inhibition of NRF2 with siRNA or ML-385, and glutathione depletion with buthionine-sulfoximine, sensitized KEAP1 mutant A549 cells to auranofin. NRF2 knockdown and GSH depletion also augmented cisplatin cytotoxicity in A549 cells, whereas auranofin had no effect. In summary, these findings suggest that TXNRD1 is not a key determinant of malignant phenotypes in KEAP1 mutant cells, although this protein can be a surrogate marker of NRF2 pathway activation, predicting tumor recurrence and possibly other aggressive phenotypes associated with NRF2 hyperactivation in NSCLC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-71
Number of pages14
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Disease-free survival
  • Lung cancer
  • NRF2
  • Recurrence
  • Thioredoxin reductase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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