Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species contribute to high NaCl-induced activation of the transcription factor TonEBP/OREBP

Xiaoming Zhou*, Joan D. Ferraris, Maurice B. Burg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Hypertonicity activates the transcription factor tonicity-responsive enhancer/osmotic response element binding protein (TonEBP/OREBP), resulting in increased expression of genes involved in osmoprotective accumulation of organic osmolytes, including glycine betaine, and in increased expression of osmoprotective heat shock proteins. Our previous studies showed that high NaCl increases reactive oxygen species (ROS), which contribute to activation of TonEBP/OREBP. Mitochondria are a major source of ROS. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether mitochondria produce the ROS that contribute to activation of TonEBP/OREBP. We inhibited mitochondrial ROS production in HEK293 cells with rotenone and myxothiazol, which inhibit mitochondrial complexes I and III, respectively. Rotenone (250 nM) and myxothiazol (12 nM) reduce high NaCl-induced ROS over 40%, whereas apocynin (100 μM), an inhibitor of NADPH oxidase, and allopurinol (100 μM), an inhibitor of xanthine oxidase, have no significant effect. Rotenone and myxothiazol reduce high NaCl-induced increases in TonEBP/OREBP transcriptional activity (ORE/TonE reporter assay) and BGT1 (betaine transporter) mRNA abundance ranging from 53 to 69%. They inhibit high NaCl-induced TonEBP/OREBP transactivating activity, but not its nuclear translocation. Release of ATP into the medium on hypertonic stress has been proposed to be a signal that triggers cellular osmotic responses. However, we do not detect release of ATP into the medium or inhibition of high NaCl-induced ORE/TonE reporter activity by an ATPase, apyrase (20 U/ml), indicating that high NaCl-induced activation of TonEBP/OREBP is not mediated by release of ATP. We conclude that high NaCl increases mitochondrial ROS production, which contributes to the activation of TonEBP/OREBP by increasing its transactivating activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F1169-F1176
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • ATP release
  • Myxothiazol
  • Nuclear translocation
  • Rotenone
  • Superoxides
  • Transactivation


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