Discovery of direct inhibitors of Keap1-Nrf2 protein-protein interaction as potential therapeutic and preventive agents

Dhulfiqar Ali Abed, Melanie Goldstein, Haifa Albanyan, Huijuan Jin, Longqin Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


The Keap1-Nrf2- ARE pathway is an important antioxidant defense mechanism that protects cells from oxidative stress and the Keap1-Nrf2 protein-protein interaction (PPI) has become an important drug target to upregulate the expression of ARE-controlled cytoprotective oxidative stress response enzymes in the development of therapeutic and preventive agents for a number of diseases and conditions. However, most known Nrf2 activators/. ARE inducers are indirect inhibitors of Keap1-Nrf2 PPI and they are electrophilic species that act by modifying the sulfhydryl groups of Keap1's cysteine residues. The electrophilicity of these indirect inhibitors may cause "off-target" side effects by reacting with cysteine residues of other important cellular proteins. Efforts have recently been focused on the development of direct inhibitors of Keap1-Nrf2 PPI. This article reviews these recent research efforts including the development of high throughput screening assays, the discovery of peptide and small molecule direct inhibitors, and the biophysical characterization of the binding of these inhibitors to the target Keap1 Kelch domain protein. These non-covalent direct inhibitors of Keap1-Nrf2 PPI could potentially be developed into effective therapeutic or preventive agents for a variety of diseases and conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalActa Pharmaceutica Sinica B
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


  • Direct inhibitors of protein-protein interaction
  • High throughput screening assays
  • Keap1
  • Nrf2
  • Oxidative stress
  • Structure-activity relationships
  • X-ray crystallography


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