The superoxide-producing NAD(P)H oxidase Nox4 was initially identified as an enzyme that is highly expressed in the kidney and is possibly involved in oxygen sensing and cellular senescence. Although the oxidase is also abundant in vascular endothelial cells, its role remains to be elucidated. Here we show that Nox4 preferentially localizes to the nucleus of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), by immunocytochemistry and immunoelectron microscopy using three kinds of affinity-purified antibodies raised against distinct immunogens from human Nox4. Silencing of Nox4 by RNA interference (RNAi) abrogates nuclear signals given with the antibodies, confirming the nuclear localization of Nox4. The nuclear fraction of HUVECs exhibits an NAD(P)H-dependent superoxide-producing activity in a manner dependent on Nox4, which activity can be enhanced upon cell stimulation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. This stimulant also facilitates gene expression as estimated in the present transfection assay of HUVECs using a reporter regulated by the Maf-recognition element MARE, a DNA sequence that constitutes a part of oxidative stress response. Both basal and stimulated transcriptional activities are impaired by RNAi-mediated Nox4 silencing. Thus Nox4 appears to produce superoxide in the nucleus of HUVECs, thereby regulating gene expression via a mechanism for oxidative stress response.
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