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Am J Physiol. 1996 Oct;271(4 Pt 1):L672-9.

Differences in basal and hyperoxia-associated HO expression in oxidant-resistant hamster fibroblasts.

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Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5110, USA.


Heme oxygenase (HO) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the production of bilirubin from heme, and HO-1 is its inducible isoenzyme. In the metabolic pathway of HO a potential oxidant, heme, is degraded, a potential antioxidant, bilirubin, is generated, and a potent sequestering agent of redox active iron, ferritin, is thought to be coinduced. Therefore, the sum of the reactions of HO may be useful in antioxidant defense. To explore the role of HO in protection against oxidative stress, we examined HO-1 expression in Chinese hamster fibroblasts (HA-1) as well as stable hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-resistant (OC-14) and 95% O2-resistant (O2R95) variant cell lines derived from HA-1, after exposure to 72 h of hyperoxia (95% O2-5% CO2). Total HO activity, HO-1 protein, and HO-1 mRNA steady-state levels were assessed before exposure and daily during exposure to hyperoxia. Controls were exposed to 95% air-5% CO2. Confluent monolayers of O2R95 and OC-14 cells had increased basal immunoreactive HO-1 protein levels relative to HA-1 cells when the cells were grown in normoxia, and O2R95 had higher total basal HO activity. When exposed to hyperoxia for up to 3 days, O2R95 cells, which were resistant to oxygen-induced killing, did not show induction of HO-1 mRNA or increased immunoreactive protein, whereas OC-14 and HA-1, which were relatively more sensitive than O2R95 to oxygen-related cytotoxicity, demonstrated significant increases in HO-1 expression during exposure to hyperoxia. Basal ferritin protein levels were highest in the O2R95 cells, intermediate in OC-14, and lowest in HA-1, but ferritin protein did not increase further, with hyperoxic exposure, in any of the cell lines. We conclude that increased constitutive HO-1 expression is associated with resistance to hyperoxia, whereas induction of HO-1 mRNA is an index of oxidative injury, since it only occurs after cells have sustained cytotoxic injury. We also conclude that increased ferritin expression does not necessarily accompany increased HO-1 expression in oxidant stress. We speculate that HO-1 plays a role in protection against hyperoxic damage.

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