Complementary gene regulation by NRF1 and NRF2 protect against hepatic cholesterol overload
Hepatic cholesterol overload promotes steatohepatitis. Insufficient understanding of liver stress defense impedes therapy development. Here, we elucidate the role of stress defense transcription factors, nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor-1 (NRF1) and -2 (NRF2), in counteracting cholesterol-linked liver stress. Using diet that increase liver cholesterol storage, expression profiles and phenotypes of liver from mice with hepatocyte deficiency of NRF1, NRF2, or both are compared to controls and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing is undertaken to identify target genes. Results show NRF1 and NRF2 co-regulate genes that eliminate cholesterol and mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage. Combined deficiency, but not deficiency of either alone, results in severe steatohepatitis, hepatic cholesterol overload and crystallization, altered bile acid metabolism, and decreased biliary cholesterol. Moreover, therapeutic effects of NRF2-activating drug bardoxolone require NRF1 and are supplemented by NRF1 overexpression. Thus, we discover complementary gene programming by NRF1 and NRF2 that counteract cholesterol-associated fatty liver disease progression.