Early life stress induces dysregulation of the heme pathway in adult mice

Academic Article


  • Early life stress (ELS) is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in adulthood, but the underlying vascular mechanisms are poorly understood. Increased hemoglobin and heme have recently been implicated to mediate endothelial dysfunction in several vascular diseases. Chronic physiological stress is associated with alterations in the heme pathway that have been well-described in the literature. However, very little is known about the heme pathway with exposure to ELS or chronic psychosocial stress. Utilizing a mouse model of ELS, maternal separation with early weaning (MSEW), we previously reported that MSEW induces endothelial dysfunction via increased superoxide production. We reasoned that heme dysregulation may be one of the culprits induced by MSEW and sustained throughout adulthood; thus, we hypothesized that MSEW induces heme dysfunction. We investigated whether circulating levels of heme, a circulating pro-oxidant mediator, are increased by MSEW and examined the role of the heme metabolic pathway and heme homeostasis in this process. We found that circulating levels of heme are increased in mice exposed to MSEW and that plasma from MSEW mice stimulated higher superoxide production in cultured mouse aortic endothelial cells (MAECs) compared to plasma from normally reared mice. The heme scavenger hemopexin blunted this enhanced superoxide production. Splenic haptoglobin abundance was significantly lower and hemoglobin levels per red blood cell were significantly higher in MSEW versus control mice. These findings lead us to propose that ELS induces increased circulating heme through dysregulation of the haptoglobin-hemoglobin system representing a mechanistic link between ELS and CVD risk in adulthood.
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    Author List

  • Pettway YD; Neder TH; Ho DH; Fox BM; Burch M; Colson J; Liu X; Kellum CE; Hyndman KA; Pollock JS
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 10