Background: Infants with congenital heart defects (CHD) are at risk for white matter brain injury. This novel rat pup model characterizes the systemic effects of intravasal cell-free hemoglobin and hyperoxia, hypothesizing that immature endogenous scavenging systems relate to increased vulnerability to conditions present during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB).
Methods: Plasma pharmacokinetics of cell-free human hemoglobin (Hb) was determined after intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration in postnatal day 6 (P6) rat pups. Cell-free hemoglobin degradation, scavenger- and oxidative stress responses in altered oxygen environments were evaluated in P6 rat pups exposed to i.p. cell-free Hb or vehicle and subjected to hyperoxia or normoxia for 24 h. Plasma and liver were analyzed for free heme, haptoglobin, hemopexin, heme-oxygenase 1, and 8-OHdG at 3–120 h post-injection. Baseline scavenging properties were evaluated in P0-P12 rat pups.
Results: Cell-free Hb displayed peak plasma concentrations of 3.6 ± 0.5 mg/mL (mean ± SD) at 3 h post-administration. Animals exposed to cell-free Hb demonstrated a 30-fold increase in plasma haptoglobin and a decrease in plasma hemopexin to 1/6 of concentrations observed in pups exposed to vehicle. Exposure to cell-free Hb and hyperoxia mediated increased plasma concentrations of free heme (72.7 ± 19.5 μM, mean ± SD) compared to exposure to cell-free Hb and normoxia (49.3 ± 13.1 μM) at 3 h, and an elevated hepatic mRNA expression of heme-oxygenase 1. mRNA expression of haptoglobin and hemopexin was increased in animals exposed to hemoglobin with a mitigated response in pups exposed to hemoglobin and hyperoxia. Animals exposed to hyperoxia displayed an increase in hepatic transcription of scavenger proteins at 24 h. Combined exposure to cell-free Hb and hyperoxia mediated an increased DNA- oxidation at 6 h, whereas all insults conveyed a decrease in DNA-oxidation at 120 h.
Conclusions: In this study, we present a novel rat pup model with scavenging characteristics and brain maturation similar to newborns with CHD. We have confirmed a distinct scavenger response after exposure to systemic cell-free hemoglobin. We have indications of an accelerated metabolism of cell-free Hb and of an altered transcription of scavenger proteins in a hyperoxic environment. We believe that this model will prove valuable in future delineation of inflammatory and oxidative end-organ damage following CPB.