Aim: Premature senescence of vascular endothelial cells is a leading cause of various cardiovascular diseases. Therapies targeting endothelial senescence would have important clinical implications. The present study was aimed to evaluate the potential of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) as a therapeutic target for endothelial senescence.

Methods and Results: Upregulation of HO-1 by Hemin or adenovirus infection reversed H2O2-induced senescence in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs); whereas depletion of HO-1 by siRNA or HO-1 inhibitor protoporphyrin IX zinc (II) (ZnPP) triggered HUVEC senescence. Mechanistically, overexpression of HO-1 enhanced the interaction between HO-1 and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), and promoted the interaction between eNOS and its upstream kinase Akt, thus resulting in an enhancement of eNOS phosphorylation at Ser1177 and a subsequent increase of nitric oxide (NO) production. Moreover, HO-1 induction prevented the decrease of eNOS dimer/monomer ratio stimulated by H2O2 via its antioxidant properties. Contrarily, HO-1 silencing impaired eNOS phosphorylation and accelerated eNOS uncoupling. In vivo, Hemin treatment alleviated senescence of endothelial cells of the aorta from spontaneously hypertensive rats, through upregulating eNOS phosphorylation at Ser1177.

Conclusions: HO-1 ameliorated endothelial senescence through enhancing eNOS activation and defending eNOS uncoupling, suggesting that HO-1 is a potential target for treating endothelial senescence.