Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 protects bovine mammary epithelial cells against free fatty acid-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro

Yuanyuan Chen, Yan Tang, Shengbin Luo, Hongdou Jia, Qiushi Xu, Renxu Chang, Zhihao Dong, Shuang Gao, Qian Song, Hao Dong, Xuan Wang, Zhuo Li, Ahmad Aboragah, Juan J. Loor, Chuang Xu, Xudong Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bovine mammary epithelial cells undergo an increase in metabolic rate, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress after calving. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NFE2L2), a master regulator of cellular redox homeostasis, plays crucial roles in the regulation of mitochondrial function. The objective of this study was to investigate the role of NFE2L2 on mitochondrial function in bovine mammary epithelial cells under hyperlipidemic conditions. Three experiments were conducted as follows: (1) the immortalized bovine mammary epithelial cell line MAC-T was treated with various concentrations of free fatty acids (FFA; 0, 0.6, 1.2, or 2.4 mM) for 24 h to induce stress; (2) MAC-T cells were transfected with small interfering RNA targeting NFE2L2 (si-NFE2L2) and scrambled nontarget negative control (si-Control) for 48 h; and (3) MAC-T cells were pretreated with 10 μM sulforaphane (SFN), an activator of NFE2L2, for 24 h followed by treatment with 1.2 mM FFA for an additional 24 h. Results indicated that exogenous FFA challenge induced linear and quadratic increases in concentrations of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS). Compared with 0 mM FFA, mitochondrial membrane potential, mRNA abundance of oxidative phosphorylation complexes (CO I-V), protein abundance of nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1 α (PGC-1α), mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM), and NFE2L2 along with the contents of ATP, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and total mitochondria were greater in the MAC-T challenged with 0.6 mM FFA group, but lower in the 1.2 and 2.4 mM FFA cultures. Knockdown of NFE2L2 via small interfering RNA led to greater mitochondrial ROS content and lower mitochondrial membrane potential along with contents of ATP, mtDNA, and total mitochondria. The SFN pretreatment upregulated protein abundance of NFE2L2 and attenuated the downregulation of NFE2L2 induced by FFA. Pretreatment with SFN attenuated the downregulation induced by FFA of PGC-1α, NRF1, and TFAM protein abundance along with contents of mtDNA and total mitochondria. Furthermore, SFN pretreatment attenuated the upregulation of mitochondrial ROS content, the downregulation of mitochondrial membrane potential, and the decreases in ATP, mtDNA, and mitochondrial content induced by FFA. Overall, data indicated that FFA inhibit NFE2L2, resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction and ROS production in bovine mammary epithelial cells. Thus, NFE2L2 may be a promising therapeutic target against metabolic challenge-driven mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in bovine mammary epithelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12830-12844
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • bovine mammary epithelial cells
  • free fatty acids
  • mitochondria
  • NFE2L2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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