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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2011 Feb;300(2):C256-65. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00272.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Nox4 NADPH oxidase-derived reactive oxygen species, via endogenous carbon monoxide, promote survival of brain endothelial cells during TNF-α-induced apoptosis.

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Dept. of Physiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 894 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38163, USA.


We investigated the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in promoting cell survival during oxidative stress induced by the inflammatory mediator tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) in cerebral microvascular endothelial cells (CMVEC) from newborn piglets. Nox4 is the major isoform of NADPH oxidase responsible for TNF-α-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in CMVEC. We present novel data that Nox4 NADPH oxidase-derived ROS also initiate a cell survival mechanism by increasing production of a gaseous antioxidant mediator carbon monoxide (CO) by constitutive heme oxygenase-2 (HO-2). TNF-α rapidly enhanced endogenous CO production in a superoxide- and NADPH oxidase-dependent manner in CMVEC with innate, but not with small interfering RNA (siRNA)-downregulated Nox4 activity. CORM-A1, a CO-releasing compound, inhibited Nox4-mediated ROS production and enhanced cell survival in TNF-α-challenged CMVEC. The ROS-induced CO-mediated survival mechanism requires functional interactions between the protein kinase B/Akt and extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK)/p38 MAPK signaling pathways activated by TNF-α. In Akt siRNA-transfected CMVEC and in cells with pharmacologically inhibited Akt, Erk1/2, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activities, CORM-A1 was no longer capable of blocking Nox4 activation and apoptosis caused by TNF-α. Overall, Nox4 NADPH oxidase-derived ROS initiate both death and survival pathways in TNF-α-challenged CMVEC. The ROS-dependent cell survival pathway is mediated by an endogenous antioxidant CO, which inhibits Nox4 activation via a mechanism that includes Akt, ERK1/2, and p38 MAPK signaling pathways. The ability of CO to inhibit TNF-α-induced ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK activities in an Akt-dependent manner appears to be the key element in ROS-dependent survival of endothelial cells during TNF-α-mediated brain inflammatory disease.

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