Background & Aims: Cirrhosis and portal hypertension due to chronic common bile duct ligation reproduce the features of human hepatopulmonary syndrome, whereas portal hypertension alone due to partial portal vein ligation does not. Nitric oxide contributes to experimental hepatopulmonary syndrome, but the nitric oxide synthase forms involved remain controversial. Recently, increased pulmonary heme oxygenase-1 expression and carbon monoxide production have also been found after common bile duct ligation. Our aim was to explore the role of the heme oxygenase-1/carbon monoxide pathway in the pathogenesis of experimental hepatopulmonary syndrome. Methods: Pulmonary heme oxygenase-1 expression and distribution were assessed in sham; 3-week partial portal vein ligation; and 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-week common bile duct ligation animals by Northern, Western and immunohistochemical analysis relative to endothelial and inducible nitric oxide synthase levels and to hepatopulmonary syndrome development. In vivo heme oxygenase enzyme inhibition with tin protoporphyrin IX in common bile duct ligation animals was used to define effects on intrapulmonary vasodilatation and arterial blood gases. Results: Heme oxygenase-1 expression in pulmonary intravascular monocytes/macrophages and arterial carboxyhemoglobin levels increased progressively from 3 to 5 weeks after common bile duct ligation relative to controls (5-week protein levels were 15.94 ± 1.75-fold those of sham animals; P < 0.001). Inducible nitric oxide synthase increased transiently in pulmonary intravascular monocytes/macrophages in 3-week common bile duct ligation animals, whereas pulmonary microvascular endothelial nitric oxide synthase increases began at 2 weeks and correlated with the onset of hepatopulmonary syndrome. Tin protoporphyrin treatment normalized carboxyhemoglobin and improved arterial blood gases and intrapulmonary vasodilatation, reflecting partial reversal of hepatopulmonary syndrome. Conclusions: The heme oxygenase-1/carbon monoxide system is an important contributor to the progression of experimental hepatopulmonary syndrome in addition to alterations in the endothelial nitric oxide synthase/nitric oxide pathway.
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