Antioxidant defence mechanisms, such as the nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related-factor-2 (NRF2) axis, are integral to oxidative stress responses and ischemic injury. Hepatic antioxidant capacity is contingent on parenchymal quality, and there is a need to develop new insights into key molecular mechanisms in marginal liver allografts that might provide therapeutic targets. This study examines the clinical relevance of NRF2 in donor livers and its response to normothermic machine perfusion (NMP). Discarded donor livers (n = 40) were stratified into a high NRF2 and low NRF2 group by quantifying NRF2 expression. High NRF2 livers had significantly lower transaminase levels, hepatic vascular inflammation and peri-portal CD3+ T cell infiltration. Human liver allografts (n = 8) were then exposed to 6-h of NMP and high NRF2 livers had significantly reduced liver enzyme alterations and improved lactate clearance. To investigate these findings further, we used a rat fatty-liver model, treating livers with an NRF2 agonist during NMP. Treated livers had increased NRF2 expression and reduced transaminase derangements following NMP compared to vehicle control. These results support the association of elevated NRF2 expression with improved liver function. Targeting this axis could have a rationale in future studies and NRF2 agonists may represent a supplemental treatment strategy for rescuing marginal donor livers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-70
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


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