Differential signaling pathways of HO-1 gene expression in pulmonary and systemic vascular cells

Cynthia L. Hartsfield, Jawed Alam, Augustine M.K. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is induced by oxidative stress and plays an important role in cellular protection against oxidant injury. Increasing evidence also suggests that HO-1 is markedly modulated by hypoxia in vitro and in vivo. Our group has previously demonstrated that the transcription factor hypoxia- inducible factor (HIF)-1 mediates hypoxia-induced HO-1 gene transcription and expression in systemic (aortic) vascular smooth muscle (AoVSM) cells (P. J. Lee, B.-H. Jiang, B. Y. Chin, N. V. Iyer, J. Alam, G. L. Semenza, and A.M. K. Choi. J. Biol. Chem. 272: 5375-5381, 1997). Because the pulmonary circulation is an important target of hypoxia, this study investigated whether HO-1 gene expression in pulmonary arterial vascular smooth muscle was differentially regulated by hypoxia in comparison to AoVSM cells. Interestingly, hypoxia neither induced HO-1 gene expression nor increased HIF-1 DNA binding activity in pulmonary arterial vascular smooth muscle cells. Conversely, pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAECs) demonstrated a marked induction of HO-1 gene expression after hypoxia. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays detected an increase in activator protein-1 rather than in HIF-1 DNA binding activity in nuclear extracts of hypoxic PAECs. Analyses of the promoter and 5'-flanking regions of the HO-1 gene were performed by transiently transfecting PAECs with either the hypoxia response element (HIF-1 binding site) or the HO-1 gene distal enhancer element (AB1) linked to a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene. Increased chloramphenicol acetyltransferase activity was observed only in transfectants containing the AB1 distal enhancer, and mutational analysis of this enhancer suggested that the activator protein-1 regulatory element was critical for hypoxia-induced HO-1 gene transcription. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the molecular regulation of HO-1 gene transcription during hypoxia differs between the systemic and pulmonary circulations and also provide evidence that hypoxia-induced HO-1 gene expression in PAECs and AoVSM cells is regulated through two discrete signaling pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L1133-L1141
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6 21-6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Activator protein-1
  • Endothelial cell
  • Heme oxygenase-1
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor-1
  • Vascular smooth muscle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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