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 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The rat hmox-1 gene plasmid was a generous gift from Dr. Leo Otterbein and Dr. Jawed Alam. This work was supported by NHLBI grants R01 HL67367 and P01 HL55552. We would like to thank Drs. Robert Hebbel, Karl Nath, and Arne Slungaard for the constructive criticisms, Fuad Abdulla in Dr. Hebbel’s laboratory for breeding and characterizing the S+S-Antilles sickle mice used for these studies, and Colleen Forster for her expert HO-1 immunohistochemistry.


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


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