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Circ Res. 2007 Oct 26;101(9):893-901. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Heme oxygenase-1 deficiency accelerates formation of arterial thrombosis through oxidative damage to the endothelium, which is rescued by inhaled carbon monoxide.

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  • 1National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 (encoded by Hmox1) catalyzes the oxidative degradation of heme to biliverdin and carbon monoxide. HO-1 is induced during inflammation and oxidative stress to protect tissues from oxidative damage. Because intravascular thrombosis forms at sites of tissue inflammation, we hypothesized that HO-1 protects against arterial thrombosis during oxidant stress. To investigate the direct function of HO-1 on thrombosis, we used photochemical-induced vascular injury in Hmox1-/- and Hmox1+/+ mice. Hmox1-/- mice developed accelerated, occlusive arterial thrombus compared with Hmox1+/+ mice, and we detected several mechanisms accounting for this antithrombotic effect. First, endothelial cells in Hmox1-/- arteries were more susceptible to apoptosis and denudation, leading to platelet-rich microthrombi in the subendothelium. Second, tissue factor, von Willebrand Factor, and reactive oxygen species were significantly elevated in Hmox1-/- mice, consistent with endothelial cell damage and loss. Third, following transplantation of Hmox1-/- donor bone marrow into Hmox1+/+ recipients and subsequent vascular injury, we observed rapid arterial thrombosis compared with Hmox1+/+ mice receiving Hmox1+/+ bone marrow. Fourth, inhaled carbon monoxide and biliverdin administration rescued the prothrombotic phenotype in Hmox1-/- mice. Fifth, using a transcriptional analysis of arterial tissue, we found that HO-1 determined a transcriptional response to injury, with specific effects on cell cycle regulation, coagulation, thrombosis, and redox homeostasis. These data provide direct genetic evidence for a protective role of HO-1 against thrombosis and reactive oxygen species during vascular damage. Induction of HO-1 may be beneficial in the prevention of thrombosis associated with vascular oxidant stress and inflammation.

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