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Respir Med. 2002 Jun;96(6):418-23.

Up-regulation of heme oxygenase-I in alveolar macrophages of newly diagnosed asthmatics.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Finland.


Exhaled carbon monoxide (CO), which has been found to be elevated in asthma, is generated primarily by heme oxygenase I (HO-I), an enzyme induced by oxidant stress and cytokines. The aim of this study was to assess the distribution and expression of HO-I in various human lung cells in acute and stable asthma. Normal lung tissue biopsies (from 6 non-smoking subjects operated on for a lung tumour) and macrophages from induced sputum (from 5 healthy controls, 5 untreated asthmatics, 7 stable treated asthmatics and 5 asthmatics recovering from exacerbation and being on systemic steroids) were investigated for HO-I by immunohistochemistry. The time response of HO-I induction was examined in cultured monocytes, which are known to maturate into monocyte-derived macrophages in culture. Lung biopsies showed prominent HO-I immunoreactivity only in alveolar macrophages. Macrophages in the induced sputum of healthy controls showed no HO-I immunoreactivity, with the exception of one case. Moderate or intense HO-I immunoreactivity could be observed in alveolar macrophages in 4/5 cases with recent asthma, and 2/7 with stable asthma, but in none ofthe patients treated with systemic corticosteroids for acute exacerbation. Experiments with cultured cells revealed that HO-I was induced by oxidants within the first 24 h, but the induction was reversed during the next 48 h. HO-I is mainly expressed in alveolar macrophages of human lung. Macrophages of induced sputum show prominent but transient HO-I immunoreactivity, in untreated asthmatics, but not in asthmatics treated with corticosteroids.

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