Focal hyperexpression of hemeoxygenase-1 protein and messenger RNA in rat brain caused by cellular stress following subarachnoid injections of lysed blood

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✓ Induction of the hemeoxygenase-1 (ho-1) stress gene is of importance for rapid heme metabolism and protection against oxidative injury in vitro and in vivo. Although ho-1 expression is observed in glia following exposure to whole blood and oxyhemoglobin, expression is mild, and other stress genes are not induced simultaneously in this setting. Hemeoxygenase-1 can be induced by several other physiological stresses in addition to heme. In the brain, ho-1 induction has been observed in the penumbra following focal cerebral ischemia. Because lysed blood is a spasmogen, the authors studied focal hyperexpression of the ho-1 gene after injection of lysed blood, whole blood, or saline into the cisterna magna of adult rats. Immunocytochemical analysis of HO-1 was performed at 1, 2, 3, and 4 days after the injections. Because the 70-kD inducible heat shock protein (HSP70) is induced by cellular stress, alternate sections were immunostained for HSP70 to assess whether focal hyperexpression was a stress phenomenon. An oligonucleotide probe was also used for in situ hybridization to demonstrate that ho-1 messenger (m)RNA was present.

Focal HO-1 immunostained areas were observed after lysed blood injection only and were located mainly in the basal cortex and cerebellar hemisphere, although focal hyperexpression was also found in many other regions. The intensity of staining and the number of regions were maximum at 1 day. Double-labeled immunofluorescence revealed that many HO-1—immunoreactive cells were microglia. The HSP70 immunostaining of adjacent sections from the same animals demonstrated focal regions of immunoreactivity whose topography corresponded exactly with the topography of the HO-1—immunostained areas. Conventional histology in regions of HO-1 hyperexpression was often normal. In situ hybridization using the same oligonucleotide demonstrated that ho-1 mRNA was induced in focal areas of forebrain and in large regions of cerebellum within 6 hours of injection.

These results demonstrate that focal hyperexpression of the ho-1 stress gene occurs after lysed blood injection and appears to be an indicator of cellular stress and injury in regions in which infarction does not occur. These results also suggest that cellular injury that occurs after injection of lysed blood may go undetected using conventional histology. Although direct heme metabolism was not investigated, our results indicate that rapid metabolism of heme, both intracellular and extracellular, may prove to be beneficial after subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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Address reprint requests to: Paul G. Matz, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Box 0112, Moffitt Hospital, M787, San Francisco, California 94143–0112.
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