BRUP-1, an intracellular bilirubin modulator, exerts neuroprotective activity in a cellular Parkinson’s disease model

Tetsushi Kataura, Shinji Saiki, Kei ichi Ishikawa, Wado Akamatsu, Yukiko Sasazawa, Nobutaka Hattori, Masaya Imoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Bilirubin, the end product of heme redox metabolism, has cytoprotective properties and is an essential metabolite associated with cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease (PD). PD is characterized by progressive degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons and is associated with elevated oxidative stress due to mitochondrial dysfunction. In this study, using a ratiometric bilirubin probe, we revealed that the mitochondrial inhibitor, rotenone, which is widely used to create a PD model, significantly decreased intracellular bilirubin levels in HepG2 cells. Chemical screening showed that BRUP-1 was a top hit that restored cellular bilirubin levels that were lowered by rotenone. We found that BRUP-1 up-regulated the expression level of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), one of the rate-limiting enzyme of bilirubin production via nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activation. In addition, we demonstrated that this Nrf2 activation was due to a direct inhibition of the interaction between Nrf2 and Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) by BRUP-1. Both HO-1 up-regulation and bilirubin restoration by BRUP-1 treatment were significantly abrogated by Nrf2 silencing. In neuronal PC12D cells, BRUP-1 also activated the Nrf2-HO-1 axis and increased bilirubin production, resulted in the suppression of neurotoxin-induced cell death, reactive oxygen species production, and protein aggregation, which are hallmarks of PD. Furthermore, BRUP-1 showed neuroprotective activity against rotenone-treated neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. These findings provide a new member of Keap1-Nrf2 direct inhibitors and suggest that chemical modulation of heme metabolism using BRUP-1 may be beneficial for PD treatment. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 1
Externally publishedYes


  • HO-1
  • Keap1
  • Nrf2
  • Parkinson's disease
  • bilirubin
  • neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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