Heme oxygenase-2 protects against ischemic acute kidney injury: influence of age and sex

Karl A Nath, Vesna D Garovic, Joseph Peter Grande, Anthony J. Croatt, Allan W. Ackerman, Gianrico Farrugia, Zvonimir S Katusic, John D. Belcher, Gregory M. Vercellotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Heme oxygenase (HO) activity is exhibited by inducible (HO-1) and constitutive (HO-2) proteins. HO-1 protects against ischemic and nephrotoxic acute kidney injury (AKI). We have previously demonstrated that HO-2 protects against heme protein-induced AKI. The present study examined whether HO-2 is protective in ischemic AKI. Renal ischemia was imposed on young and aged HO-2+/+ and HO-2-/- mice. On days 1 and 2 after renal ischemia, there were no significant differences in renal function between young male HO-2+/+ and HO-2-/- mice, between young female HO-2+/+ and HO-2-/- mice, or between aged female HO-2+/+ and HO-2-/- mice. However, in aged male mice, HO-2 deficiency worsened renal function on days 1 and 2 after ischemic AKI, and, on day 2 after ischemia, such deficiency augmented upregulation of injury-related genes and worsened histological injury. Renal HO activity was markedly decreased in unstressed aged male HO-2-/- mice and remained so after ischemia, despite exaggerated HO-1 induction in HO-2-/- mice after ischemia. Such exacerbation of deficiency of HO-2 protein and HO activity may reflect phosphorylated STAT3, as activation of this proinflammatory transcription factor was accentuated early after ischemia in aged male HO-2-/- mice. This exacerbation may not reflect impaired induction of nephroprotectant genes, since the induction of HO-1, sirtuin 1, and β-catenin was accentuated in aged male HO-2-/- mice after ischemia. We conclude that aged male mice are hypersensitive to ischemic AKI and that HO-2 mitigates such sensitivity. We speculate that this protective effect of HO-2 may be mediated, at least in part, by suppression of phosphorylated STAT3-dependent signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F695-F704
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Renal physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019



  • acute kidney injury
  • age
  • biology of sex differences
  • heme oxygenase-2
  • phospho-STAT3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology

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