Regulation of KCNMA1 transcription by Nrf2 in coronary arterial smooth muscle cells

Xiaojing Sun, Ling Ling Qian, Yong Li, Teresa M. Pfiefer, Xiao Li Wang, Hon Chi Lee, Tong Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels, composed of the pore-forming α subunits (BK-α, encoded by KCNMA1 gene) and the regulatory β1 subunits (BK-β1, encoded by KCNMB1 gene), play a unique role in the regulation of coronary vascular tone and myocardial perfusion by linking intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis with excitation-contraction coupling in coronary arterial smooth muscle cells (SMCs). The nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) belongs to a member of basic leucine zipper transcription factor family that regulates the expression of antioxidant and detoxification enzymes by binding to the antioxidant response elements (AREs) of these target genes. We have previously reported that vascular BK-β1 protein expression was tightly regulated by Nrf2. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the regulation of BK channel expression by Nrf2, particularly at transcription level, is unknown. In this study, we hypothesized that KCNMA1 and KCNMB1 are the target genes of Nrf2 transcriptional regulation. We found that BK channel protein expression and current density were diminished in freshly isolated coronary arterial SMCs of Nrf2 knockout (KO) mice. However, BK-α mRNA expression was reduced, but not that of BK-β1 mRNA expression, in the arteries of Nrf2 KO mice. Promoter-Nrf2 luciferase reporter assay confirmed that Nrf2 binds to the ARE of KCNMA1 promoter, but not that of KCNMB1. Adenoviral expression and pharmacological activation of Nrf2 increased BK-α and BK-β1 protein levels and enhanced BK channel activity in coronary arterial SMCs. Hence, our results indicate that Nrf2 is a key determinant of BK channel expression and function in vascular SMCs. Nrf2 facilitates BK-α expression through a direct increase in gene transcription, whereas that on BK-β1 is through a different mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-76
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Dimethyl fumarate
  • KCNMA1
  • KCNMB1
  • Nrf2
  • Transcriptional regulation
  • Vascular smooth muscle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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