Pharmacological versus genetic inhibition of heme oxygenase-1 – the comparison of metalloporphyrins, shRNA and CRISPR/Cas9 system

  • Olga Mucha
  • Paulina Podkalicka
  • Maria Czarnek
  • Anna Biela
  • Mateusz Mieczkowski
  • Neli Kachamakova-Trojanowska
  • Jacek Stępniewski
  • Alicja Józkowicz
  • Józef Dulak
  • Agnieszka Łoboda


Inhibition of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1, encoded by HMOX1), a cytoprotective, anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory enzyme, may be a valuable therapy in various pathophysiological processes, including tumorigenesis. We compared the effect of chemical inhibitors – metalloporphyrins, with genetic tools - shRNA and CRISPR/Cas9 systems, to knock-down (KD)/knock-out (KO) HO-1 expression/activity. 293T cells were incubated with metalloporphyrins, tin and zinc protoporphyrins (SnPPIX and ZnPPIX, respectively) or were either transduced with lentiviral vectors encoding different shRNA sequences against HO-1 or were modified by CRISPR/Cas9 system targeting HMOX1. Metalloporphyrins decreased HO activity but concomitantly strongly induced HO-1 mRNA and protein in 293T cells. On the other hand, basal and hemin-induced HO-1 inhibition in shRNA KD 293T cell lines was confirmed on mRNA, protein and activity level. Nevertheless, silencing effect was much stronger when CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knock-out was performed. Most of the clones harboring mutations within HMOX1 locus did not express HO-1 and failed to increase bilirubin concentration after hemin stimulation. Furthermore, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated HO-1 depletion decreased 293T viability, growth, clonogenic potential and increased sensitivity to H2O2 treatment. In summary, we have shown that all technologies can be used for inhibition of HO activity in vitro; however, the most potent and comprehensible results can be obtained using genetic tools, especially CRISPR/Cas9 approach.


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