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Endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction is involved in the pathogenesis of contrast-induced acute kidney injury, which is a major adverse event following coronary angiography. In this study, we evaluated the effect of contrast media (CM) on human EC proliferation, migration, and inflammation, and determined if heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) influences the biological actions of CM. We found that three distinct CM, including high-osmolar (diatrizoate), low-osmolar (iopamidol), and iso-osmolar (iodixanol), stimulated the expression of HO-1 protein and mRNA. The induction of HO-1 was associated with an increase in NF-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS). CM also stimulated HO-1 promoter activity and this was prevented by mutating the antioxidant responsive element or by overexpressing dominant-negative Nrf2. In addition, the CM-mediated induction of HO-1 and activation of Nrf2 was abolished by acetylcysteine. Finally, CM inhibited the proliferation and migration of ECs and stimulated the expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and the adhesion of monocytes on ECs. Inhibition or silencing of HO-1 exacerbated the anti-proliferative and inflammatory actions of CM but had no effect on the anti-migratory effect. Thus, induction of HO-1 via the ROS-Nrf2 pathway counteracts the anti-proliferative and inflammatory actions of CM. Therapeutic approaches targeting HO-1 may provide a novel approach in preventing CM-induced endothelial and organ dysfunction.