Heme oxygenase (HO) catalyzes the oxidation of heme to generate carbon monoxide (CO) and bilirubin. CO increases cellular levels of cGMP, which regulates vascular tone and smooth muscle development. Bilirubin is a potent antioxidant. Hypoxia increases expression of the inducible HO isoform (HO-1) but not the constitutive isoform (HO-2). To determine whether HO-1 affects cellular adaptation to chronic hypoxia in vivo, we generated HO-1 null (HO-1–/–) mice and subjected them to hypoxia (10% oxygen) for five to seven weeks. Hypoxia caused similar increases in right ventricular systolic pressure in wild-type and HO-1–/– mice. Although ventricular weight increased in wild-type mice, the increase was greater in HO-1–/– mice. Similarly, the right ventricles were more dilated in HO-1–/– mice. After seven weeks of hypoxia, only HO-1–/– mice developed right ventricular infarcts with organized mural thrombi. No left ventricular infarcts were observed. Lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage occurred in right ventricular cardiomyocytes in HO-1–/–, but not wild-type, mice. We also detected apoptotic cardiomyocytes surrounding areas of infarcted myocardium by terminal deoxynucleotide transferase–mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) assays. Our data suggest that in the absence of HO-1, cardiomyocytes have a maladaptive response to hypoxia and subsequent pulmonary hypertension.
Shaw-Fang Yet, Mark A. Perrella, Matthew D. Layne, Chung-Ming Hsieh, Koji Maemura, Lester Kobzik, Philippe Wiesel, Helen Christou, Stella Kourembanas, Mu-En Lee