Prolonged mechanical ventilation (MV) results in a rapid onset of diaphragmatic atrophy that is primarily due to increased proteolysis. Although MV-induced protease activation can involve several factors, it is clear that oxidative stress is a required signal for protease activation in the diaphragm during prolonged MV. However, the oxidant-producing pathways in the diaphragm that contribute to MV-induced oxidative stress remain unknown. We have demonstrated that prolonged MV results in increased diaphragmatic expression of a key stress-sensitive enzyme, heme oxygenase (HO)-1. Paradoxically, HO-1 can function as either a pro-oxidant or an antioxidant, and the role that HO-1 plays in MV-induced diaphragmatic oxidative stress is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that HO-1 acts as a pro-oxidant in the diaphragm during prolonged MV.
To determine whether HO-1 functions as a pro-oxidant or an antioxidant in the diaphragm during MV, we assigned rats into three experimental groups: (1) a control group, (2) a group that received 18 h of MV and saline solution, and (3) a group that received 18 h of MV and was treated with a selective HO-1 inhibitor. Indices of oxidative stress, protease activation, and fiber atrophy were measured in the diaphragm.
Inhibition of HO-1 activity did not prevent or exacerbate MV-induced diaphragmatic oxidative stress (as indicated by biomarkers of oxidative damage). Further, inhibition of HO-1 activity did not influence MV-induced protease activation or myofiber atrophy in the diaphragm.
Our results indicate that HO-1 is neither a pro-oxidant nor an antioxidant in the diaphragm during MV. Furthermore, our findings reveal that HO-1 does not play an important role in MV-induced protease activation and diaphragmatic atrophy.