Heme oxygenase (HO) catalyzes oxidative breakdown of heme, and constitutes two isozymes, HO-1 and HO-2. Here, we explored the tissue-specific regulation of expression of HO-1 and HO-2 under hypoxemia. There was no significant change in the overall expression levels of HO-1 and HO-2 mRNAs and proteins in the lung during adaptation of C57BL/6 mice to normobaric hypoxia (10% O2). However, immunohistochemical analysis revealed the increased expression of HO-1 and HO-2 proteins after 28 days of normobaric hypoxia in the pulmonary venous myocardium that is the extension of the left atrial myocardium into pulmonary venous walls. Moreover, the expression of HO-2 protein was increased in the sub-endocardial myocardium of ventricles under hypoxia, while HO-1 protein level was increased in the full-thickness walls. Thus, hypoxemia induces expression of both HO-1 and HO-2 proteins in the myocardium. Using C57BL/6 mice lacking HO-2 (HO-2-/-), which manifest chronic hypoxemia, we also showed that the HO-1 protein level in the lung was similar between HO-2-/- mice and wild-type mice. Unexpectedly, HO-1 protein level was lower by 35% in the HO-2-/- mouse liver than the wild-type liver. These results indicate that the expression of HO-1 protein is regulated in a tissue-specific manner under hypoxemia.
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