Heme oxygenase-1 gene delivery by Sleeping Beauty inhibits vascular stasis in a murine model of sickle cell disease

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Increases in heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and administration of heme degradation products CO and biliverdin inhibit vascular inflammation and vasoocclusion in mouse models of sickle cell disease (SCD). In this study, an albumin (alb) promoter-driven Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposase plasmid with a wild-type rat hmox-1 (wt-HO-1) transposable element was delivered by hydrodynamic tail vein injections to SCD mice. Eight weeks after injection, SCD mice had three- to five-fold increases in HO-1 activity and protein expression in liver, similar to hemin-treated mice. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated increased perinuclear HO-1 staining in hepatocytes. Messenger RNA transcription of the hmox-1 transgene in liver was confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction restriction fragment length polymorphism (qRT-PCR RFLP) with no detectible transgene expression in other organs. The livers of all HO-1 overexpressing mice had activation of nuclear phospho-p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phospho-Akt, decreased nuclear expression of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) p65, and decreased soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) in serum. Hypoxia-induced stasis, a characteristic of SCD, but not normal mice, was inhibited in dorsal skin fold chambers in wt-HO-1 SCD mice despite the absence of hmox-1 transgene expression in the skin suggesting distal effects of HO activity on the vasculature. No protective effects were seen in SCD mice injected with nonsense (ns-) rat hmox-1 that encodes carboxy-truncated HO-1 with little or no enzyme activity. We speculate that HO-1 gene delivery to the liver is beneficial in SCD mice by degrading pro-oxidative heme, releasing anti-inflammatory heme degradation products CO and biliverdin/bilirubin into circulation, activating cytoprotective pathways and inhibiting vascular stasis at sites distal to transgene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-675
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010



  • Gene therapy
  • Heme oxygenase
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Sleeping Beauty

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