Labile Heme Impairs Hepatic Microcirculation and Promotes Hapatic Injury
in: Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (2019)
Sepsis is a life-threatening clinical syndrome defined as a deregulated host response to infection associated with organ dysfunction. Mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of septic liver dysfunction are incompletely understood. Among others, the iron containing tetrapyrrole heme inflicts hepatic damage when released into the circulation during systemic inflammation and sepsis. Accordingly, hemolysis and decreased concentrations of heme-scavenging proteins coincide with an unfavorable outcome of critically ill patients. As the liver is a key organ in heme metabolism and host response to infection, we investigated the impact of labile heme on sinusoidal microcirculation and hepatocellular integrity.We here provide experimental evidence that heme increases portal pressure via a mechanism that involves hepatic stellate cell-mediated sinusoidal constriction, a hallmark of microcirculatory failure under stress conditions. Moreover, heme exerts direct cytotoxicityin vitro and aggravates tissue damage in a model of poly-microbial sepsis. Heme binding by albumin, a low-affinity but high-capacity heme scavenger, attenuates heme-mediated vasoconstrictionin vivo and prevents heme-mediated cytotoxicityin vitro. We demonstrate that fractions of serum albumin-bound labile heme are increased in septic patients. We propose that heme scavenging might be used therapeutically to maintain hepatic microcirculation and organ function in sepsis.