Ferroptosis is controlled by the coordinated transcriptional regulation of glutathione and labile iron metabolism by the transcription factor BACH1.
Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent programmed cell death event, whose regulation and physiological significance remain to be elucidated. Analyzing transcriptional responses of mouse embryonic fibroblasts exposed to the ferroptosis inducer erastin, here we found that a set of genes related to oxidative stress protection is induced upon ferroptosis. We considered that up-regulation of these genes attenuates ferroptosis induction and found that the transcription factor BTB domain and CNC homolog 1 (BACH1), a regulator in heme and iron metabolism, promotes ferroptosis by repressing the transcription of a subset of the erastin-induced protective genes. We noted that these genes are involved in the synthesis of glutathione or metabolism of intracellular labile iron and include glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit (Gclm), solute carrier family 7 member 11 (Slc7a11), ferritin heavy chain 1 (Fth1), ferritin light chain 1 (Ftl1), and solute carrier family 40 member 1 (Slc40a1). Ferroptosis has also been previously shown to induce cardiomyopathy, and here we observed that Bach1-/- mice are more resistant to myocardial infarction than wild-type mice and that the severity of ischemic injury is decreased by the iron-chelator deferasirox, which suppressed ferroptosis. Our findings suggest that ferroptosis is regulated at the transcriptional level by BACH1, represses genes that combat labile iron-induced oxidative stress, and is stimulated by BACH1 upon disruption of the balance between the transcriptional induction of protective genes and accumulation of iron-mediated damage. We propose that BACH1 controls the threshold of ferroptosis induction and may represent a therapeutic target for alleviating ferroptosis-related diseases, including myocardial infarction.