Inhibition of the Keap1-Nrf2 protein-protein interaction protects retinal cells and ameliorates retinal ischemia-reperfusion injury

Qiaoyan Hui, Marcus Karlstetter, Zhenhua Xu, Jing Yang, Lingli Zhou, Hanna M. Eilken, Carsten Terjung, Hongkwan Cho, Junsong Gong, Michael J. Lai, Khaled Nassar, Elia J. Duh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The Nrf2-Keap1 pathway regulates transcription of a wide array of antioxidant and cytoprotective genes and offers critical protection against oxidative stress. This pathway has demonstrated benefit for a variety of retinal conditions. Retinal ischemia plays a pivotal role in many vision threatening diseases. Retinal vascular endothelial cells are an important participant in ischemic injury. In this setting, Nrf2 provides a protective pathway via amelioration of oxidative stress and inflammation. In this study, we investigated a potent small molecule inhibitor of the Nrf2-Keap1 protein-protein interaction (PPI), CPUY192018, for its therapeutic potential in retinal cells and retinal ischemia-reperfusion injury. In human retinal endothelial cells (HREC), treatment with CPUY192018 increased Nrf2 protein levels and nuclear translocation, stimulated Nrf2-ARE-induced transcriptional capacity, and induced Nrf2 target gene expression. Furthermore, CPUY192018 protected HREC against oxidative stress and inflammatory activation. CPUY192018 also activated Nrf2 and suppressed inflammatory response in macrophages. In the retinal ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) model, administration of CPUY192018 induced Nrf2 target gene activation in the retina. Both systemic and topical treatment with CPUY192018 rescued visual function after ischemia-reperfusion injury. Taken together, these findings indicate that small molecule Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitors can activate the Nrf2 pathway in the retina and provide protection against retinal ischemic and inflammatory injury, suggesting Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibition in the treatment of retinal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-188
Number of pages8
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Endothelial cell
  • Inflammation
  • Ischemia
  • Nrf2
  • Oxidative stress
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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