We previously showed that aripiprazole increases intracellular NADPH and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase mRNA in PC12 cells. Aripiprazole presumably activates a system that concurrently detoxifies reactive oxygen species and replenishes NADPH. Nrf2, a master transcriptional regulator of redox homeostasis genes, also activates the pentose phosphate pathway, including NADPH production. Therefore, our aim was to determine whether aripiprazole activates Nrf2 in PC12 cells. Aripiprazole increased mRNA expression of Nrf2-dependent genes (NAD(P)H–quinone oxidoreductase-1, Nqo1; heme oxygenase-1, HO1; and glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit) and protein expression of Nqo1 and HO1 in these cells (p < 0.05). To maintain increased Nrf2 activity, it is necessary to inhibit Nrf2 degradation; this is done by causing Nrf2 to dissociate from Keap1 or β-TrCP. However, in aripiprazole-treated cells, the relative amount of Nrf2 anchored to Keap1 or β-TrCP was unaffected and Nrf2 in the nuclear fraction decreased (p < 0.05). Aripiprazole did not affect phosphorylation of Nrf2 at Ser40 and decreased the relative amount of acetylated Nrf2 (p < 0.05). The increase in Nqo1 and HO1 in aripiprazole-treated cells cannot be explained by the canonical Nrf2-degrading pathways. Further experiments are needed to determine the biochemical mechanisms underlying the aripiprazole-induced increase in these enzymes.
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