Heme Oxygenase-1 in Macrophages Drives Septic Cardiac Dysfunction via Suppressing Lysosomal Degradation of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase

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To date, our understanding of the role of HO-1 (heme oxygenase-1) in inflammatory diseases has mostly been limited to its catalytic function and the potential for its heme-related catabolic products to suppress inflammation and oxidative stress. Whether and how HO-1 in macrophages plays a role in the development of septic cardiac dysfunction has never been explored.


Here, we investigated the role of macrophage-derived HO-1 in septic cardiac dysfunction.

Methods and Results:

Intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide significantly activated HO-1 expression in cardiac infiltrated macrophages. Surprisingly, we found that myeloid conditional HO-1 deletion in mice evoked resistance to lipopolysaccharide-triggered septic cardiac dysfunction and lethality in vivo, which was accompanied by reduced cardiomyocyte apoptosis in the septic hearts and decreased peroxynitrite production and iNOS (inducible NO synthase) in the cardiac infiltrated macrophages, whereas proinflammatory cytokine production and macrophage infiltration were unaltered. We further demonstrated that HO-1 suppression abolished the lipopolysaccharide-induced iNOS protein rather than mRNA expression in macrophages. Moreover, we confirmed that the inhibition of HO-1 promoted iNOS degradation through a lysosomal rather than proteasomal pathway in macrophages. Suppression of the lysosomal degradation of iNOS by bafilomycin A1 drove septic cardiac dysfunction in myeloid HO-1–deficient mice. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that HO-1 interacted with iNOS at the flavin mononucleotide domain, which further prevented iNOS conjugation with LC3 (light chain 3) and subsequent lysosomal degradation in macrophages. These effects were independent of HO-1’s catabolic products: ferrous ion, carbon monoxide, and bilirubin.


Our results indicate that HO-1 in macrophages drives septic cardiac dysfunction. The mechanistic insights provide potential therapeutic targets to treat septic cardiac dysfunction.

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