Trichloroethene (TCE) exposure is associated with the induction of autoimmune diseases (ADs). Although oxidative stress plays a major role in TCE-mediated autoimmunity, the underlying molecular mechanisms still need to be delineated. Dysregulation of redox-sensitive nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like2 (Nrf2), resulting in uncontrolled antioxidant and cytoprotective genes, and pro-inflammatory MAPK signaling pathways could be critical in TCE-mediated disease progression. This study was, therefore, focused on establishing status and contribution of Nrf2 and MAPK signaling in TCE-mediated inflammatory and autoimmune responses, especially during disease progression. To achieve these objectives, time-response studies were conducted by treating female MRL+/+ mice with TCE (0.5 mg/mL, a dose relevant to human exposure) for 24, 36 and 52 wks. TCE exposure led to reduction in Nrf2 expression, but increased phos-NF-κB (p65) and iNOS along with increased phosphorylation of MAPKs (p38, ERK and JNK) and downstream pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12, TNF-α and RANTES in the livers in a time-dependent manner. These changes were also associated with time-dependent increases in liver protein carbonyls and induction of serum anti-dsDNA antibodies (marker of systemic lupus erythematosus disease), further supporting the role of oxidative stress and Nrf2/MAPK signaling in TCE-mediated autoimmune response progression. The mechanistic role of MAPK in TCE-mediated autoimmunity was further established by treating MRL+/+ mice with sulforaphane (SFN; 8 mg/kg, i.p., every other day) along with TCE (10 mmol/kg, i.p., every 4th day) for 6 wks using an established protocol, and by in vitro treatment of T cells with dichloroacetyl chloride (a TCE metabolite) with/without p38 MAPK inhibitor. SFN treatment attenuated the TCE-mediated phosphorylation of p38 MAPK. More importantly, treatment with SFN or p38 inhibitor led to suppression of downstream pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12 and TNF-α. These findings thus support the contribution of Nrf2 and MAPK signaling pathways and help in delineating novel potential therapeutic targets against TCE-mediated autoimmunity.
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