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J Immunol. 2007 Dec 1;179(11):7840-51.

Heme oxygenase-1 inhibits the expression of adhesion molecules associated with endothelial cell activation via inhibition of NF-kappaB RelA phosphorylation at serine 276.

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  • 1Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Apartado 14, Oeiras, Portugal.


Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1; encoded by the Hmox1 gene) catalyzes the degradation of free heme into biliverdin, via a reaction that releases iron (Fe) and carbon monoxide. We report that HO-1 down-regulates the proinflammatory phenotype associated with endothelial cell (EC) activation by reducing intracellular nonprotein-bound Fe (labile Fe). EC isolated from Hmox1(-/-) mice have higher levels of intracellular labile Fe and reactive oxygen species (ROS) as compared with EC isolated from Hmox1(+/+) mice. Basal and TNF-induced expression of VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and E-selectin were increased in Hmox1(-/-) vs Hmox1(+/+) EC, an effect reversed by Fe chelation using deferoxamine mesylate (DFO). Fe chelation inhibits TNF-driven transcription of Vcam-1, Icam-1, and E-selectin, as assessed using luciferase reporter assays. This effect is associated with inhibition of the transcription factor NF-kappaB via a mechanism that is not associated with the inhibition of IkappaBalpha phosphorylation/degradation or NF-kappaB (i.e., RelA) nuclear translocation, although it affects very modestly NF-kappaB binding to DNA kappaB consensus sequences in the Vcam-1 and E-selectin promoters. HO-1 inhibits NF-kappaB (i.e., RelA) phosphorylation at Ser(276), a phosphoacceptor that is critical to sustain TNF-driven NF-kappaB activity in EC. This effect was mimicked by Fe chelation as well as by antioxidants (N-acetylcysteine). In conclusion, we demonstrate a novel mechanism via which HO-1 down-modulates the proinflammatory phenotype of activated EC, i.e., the inhibition of RelA phosphorylation at Ser(276).

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