Activation of the NRF2 pathway in Keap1-knockdown mice attenuates progression of age-related hearing loss.

Research paper by Tetsuya T Oishi, Daisuke D Matsumaru, Nao N Ota, Hiroshi H Kitamura, Tianxiang T Zhang, Yohei Y Honkura, Yukio Y Katori, Hozumi H Motohashi

Indexed on: 16 Dec '20Published on: 16 Dec '20Published in: npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease


Age-related hearing loss (AHL) is a progressive sensorineural hearing loss in elderly people. Although no prevention or treatments have been established for AHL, recent studies have demonstrated that oxidative stress is closely related to pathogenesis of AHL, suggesting that suppression of oxidative stress leads to inhibition of AHL progression. NRF2 is a master transcription factor that regulates various antioxidant proteins and cytoprotection factors. To examine whether NRF2 pathway activation prevents AHL, we used Keap1-knockdown (Keap1) mice, in which KEAP1, a negative regulator of NRF2, is decreased, resulting in the elevation of NRF2 activity. We compared 12-month-old Keap1 mice with age-matched wild-type (WT) mice in the same breeding colony. In the Keap1 mice, the expression levels of multiple NRF2 target genes were verified to be significantly higher than the expression levels of these genes in the WT mice. Histological analysis showed that cochlear degeneration at the apical and middle turns was ameliorated in the Keap1 mice. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds in the Keap1 mice were significantly lower than those in the WT mice, in particular at low-mid frequencies. Immunohistochemical detection of oxidative stress markers suggested that oxidative stress accumulation was attenuated in the Keap1 cochlea. Thus, we concluded that NRF2 pathway activation protects the cochlea from oxidative damage during aging, in particular at the apical and middle turns. KEAP1-inhibiting drugs and phytochemicals are expected to be effective in the prevention of AHL.