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Lars Bellner, Jesse Wolstein, Kiran A. Patil, Michael W. Dunn, Michal Laniado-Schwartzman; Biliverdin Rescues the HO-2 Null Mouse Phenotype of Unresolved Chronic Inflammation Following Corneal Epithelial Injury. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2011;52(6):3246-3253. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.10-6219.
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The heme oxygenase system (HO-1 and HO-2) represents an intrinsic cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory pathway based on its ability to modulate leukocyte migration and to inhibit the expression of inflammatory cytokines and proteins by its products biliverdin/bilirubin and carbon monoxide. Corneal injury in HO-2 null mice leads to impaired healing and chronic inflammatory complications, including ulceration and neovascularization. The authors examined whether topically administered biliverdin can counteract the effects of HO deficiency in a corneal epithelial injury model.
HO-2 null mice were treated with biliverdin 1 hour before epithelial injury and twice a day thereafter. Reepithelialization and neovascularization were assessed by fluorescein staining and vital microscopy, respectively, and were quantified by image analysis. Inflammation was quantified by histology and Gr-1–specific immunofluorescence, and oxidative stress was assessed by DHE fluorescence.
Treatment with biliverdin accelerated wound closure, inhibited neovascularization and reduced epithelial defects. It also reduced inflammation, as evidenced by a reduction in the appearance of inflammatory cells and the expression levels of inflammatory and oxidant proteins, including KC and NOXs.
The results clearly show that biliverdin, directly or through its metabolism to bilirubin by biliverdin reductase—the expression of which is increased after injury—rescues the aberrant inflammatory phenotype, further underscoring the importance of the HO system in the cornea for the execution of an ordered inflammatory and reparative response.
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