Expression of haem oxygenase in cirrhotic rat liver

Chang Li Wei, Kang Hoe Lee, Hoon Eng Khoo, Wei Min Hon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The haem oxygenase (HO)/carbon monoxide (CO) system has been implicated as a modulator of hepatobiliary function. This study investigated HO expression in the process of cirrhosis development, as well as its relationship to nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Liver cirrhosis was induced in rats by chronic bile duct ligation (BDL). HO mRNA expression was evaluated by competitive RT-PCR, while protein expression was determined by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. In liver tissue where cirrhosis had fully developed, the expression levels of HO-1 were greatly enhanced at both mRNA and protein level compared with sham livers. Immunohistochemistry showed that HO-1 was induced in hepatocytes and enhanced in some of the Kupffer-like cells in BDL livers. In contrast, there was no difference between the sham and the BDL livers for the expression levels of HO-2. Interestingly, administration of the NOS inhibitor aminoguanidine (AG) or NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester inhibited HO-1 expression. To study further the role of HO-1 in the development of liver cirrhosis, hepatocytes were isolated from the rats at different time points after BDL operation. HO-1 was expressed in hepatocytes at high levels during the early onset of cirrhosis but dropped slightly at a later stage of cirrhosis. Zinc protoporphyrin IX (ZnPP), an HO inhibitor, blocked HO-1 expression in hepatocytes from BDL cirrhotic rats, but enhanced the activity of inducible NOS (iNOS) in BDL hepatocytes. In conclusion, HO-1 was induced in the hepatocytes of rats undergoing cirrhosis, suggesting that HO-1 plays a role in the development of liver cirrhosis. Induction of HO-1 may be mediated partially by iNOS. However, once it is induced, HO-1 may be important in modulating iNOS activity, thus playing a protective role in liver cirrhosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Gene and protein expression
  • Haem oxygenase
  • Hepatocyte
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Nitric oxide synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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