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Transplantation. 2002 Jul 15;74(1):96-102.

Heme oxygenase-1 gene transfer inhibits inducible nitric oxide synthase expression and protects genetically fat Zucker rat livers from ischemia-reperfusion injury.

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Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center, Department of Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine, 90095, USA.



Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury is a critical factor in the dysfunction of steatotic orthotopic liver transplants. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a cytoprotective protein, may be important in ameliorating hepatic I/R injury.


We used adenovirus (Ad)-based HO-1 gene transfer to analyze the effects of HO-1 overexpression in a well-established fatty Zucker rat model of I/R followed by orthotopic liver transplantation.


Ad-HO-1 gene therapy increased recipient survival (80% vs. 40-50% in controls) and significantly diminished hepatocyte injury, as compared with untreated and Ad-beta-galactosidase (Ad-beta-Gal)-treated livers. Orthotopic liver transplants in the Ad-HO-1 group exhibited less macrophage infiltration in the portal areas, as compared with controls. Unlike untreated and Ad-beta-Gal-treated orthotopic liver transplant controls, which showed elevated levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase by infiltrating macrophages, inducible nitric oxide synthase expression in the Ad-HO-1 group was almost absent. In contrast, endothelial nitric oxide synthase was comparable in Ad-HO-1- and Ad-beta-Gal-transduced fatty orthotopic liver transplants. Intragraft expression of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Bag-1 was increased in Ad-HO-1-treated orthotopic liver transplants, as compared with Ad-beta-Gal controls. Moreover, increased HO enzymatic activity was accompanied by inhibition of caspase-3 protein expression.


HO-1 gene transfer significantly prolongs survival of steatotic orthotopic liver transplants, depresses macrophage infiltration, suppresses local expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, and modulates pro- and antiapoptotic pathways.

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