Rapamycin induces the expression of heme oxygenase-1 and peroxyredoxin-1 in normal hepatocytes but not in tumorigenic liver cells

Farhana Afroz, Alwyn Kist, Jin Hua, Yabin Zhou, Elke M. Sokoya, Robert Padbury, Vincent Nieuwenhuijs, Greg Barritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Rapamycin (sirolimus) is employed as an immunosuppressant following liver transplant, to inhibit the re-growth of cancer cells following liver resection for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and for the treatment of advanced HCC. Rapamycin also induces the expression of antioxidant enzymes in the liver, suggesting that pretreatment with the drug could provide a potential strategy to reduce ischemia reperfusion injury following liver surgery. The aim of this study was to further investigate the actions of rapamycin in inducing expression of the antioxidant enzymes heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and peroxiredoxin-1 (Prx-1) in normal liver and in tumorigenic liver cells. A rat model of segmental hepatic ischemia and reperfusion, cultured freshly-isolated rat hepatocytes, and tumorigenic H4IIE rat liver cells in culture were employed. Expression of HO-1 and Prx-1 was measured using quantitative PCR and western blot. Rapamycin pre-treatment of normal liver in vivo or normal hepatocytes in vitro led to a substantial induction of mRNA encoding HO-1 and Prx-1. The dose-response curve for the action of rapamycin on mRNA expression was biphasic, showing an increase in expression at 0 - 0.1 μM rapamycin but a decrease from maximum at concentrations greater than 0.1 μM. By contrast, in H4IIE cells, rapamycin inhibited the expression of HO-1 and Prx-1 mRNA. Oltipraz, an established activator of transcription factor Nrf2, caused a large induction of HO-1 and Prx-1 mRNA. The dose response curve for the inhibition by rapamycin of HO-1 and Prx-4 mRNA expression, determined in the presence of oltipraz, was monophasic with half maximal inhibition at about 0.01 μM. It is concluded that, at concentrations comparable to those used clinically, pre-treatment of the liver with rapamycin induces the expression of HO-1 and Prx-1. However, the actions of rapamycin on the expression of these two antioxidant enzymes in normal hepatocytes are complex and, in tumorigenic liver cells, differ from those in normal hepatocytes. Further studies are warranted to evaluate preconditioning the livers of patients subject to liver resection or liver transplant with rapamycin as a viable strategy to reduce IR injury following liver surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-344
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Heme oxygenase-1
  • Ischemia reperfusion
  • Liver
  • Peroxiredoxin-1
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Rapamycin


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