The mechanism of action of 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA), the active therapeutic moiety of a number of clinically used anti-colitic agents, is unclear. The present study investigates whether the beneficial effects in vivo could involve induction of the heat shock protein, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), known to provide endogenous anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory moieties which can modulate colonic inflammation. The effects of 5-ASA on the colonic expression and activity of HO-1 along with its effect on the inflammatory damage have been evaluated in the colitis provoked by instillation of trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid (TNBS) over 48 h in the rat. Intracolonic administration of 5-ASA (8, 25 and 75 mg/kg/day) dose-dependently reduced the TNBS-provoked macroscopic colonic inflammatory injury, myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity and TNF-α levels, while also dose-dependently increasing colonic heme oxygenase enzyme activity. Colonic HO-1 protein expression, determined by Western blot analysis in this colitis model, was likewise further induced by 5-ASA. Intracolonic administration of 5-ASA alone under unchallenged conditions also induced colonic HO-1 protein expression and stimulated heme oxygenase enzyme activity. Administration of zinc protoporphyrin (50 μmol/kg/day, s.c.), which prevented the increase in colonic heme oxygenase activity, abolished the anti-colitic effect of 5-ASA. These results suggest that 5-ASA may exert its colonic anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in vivo in part through the up-regulation of HO-1 enzyme expression and activity.
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