Overexpression of heat shock protein (Hsp) 70 and Hsp27 in vivo was proclaimed as a potential tool in therapy of ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, it was so far not known whether these Hsps can beneficially act when increased in cells just at the stage of postischemic reperfusion. This issue was examined in a model of ischemia-reperfusion stress when cultures of endothelial cells (EC) from human umbilical vein were infected with virus-based vectors expressing Hsp70 or Hsp27, or Hsp56, or green fluorescent protein (GFP) and exposed to 20 hours of hypoxia followed by reoxygenation. The infection was performed either 10 hours before hypoxia or immediately after hypoxia, or at different time points of reoxygenation. Only low cell death was detected during hypoxia, but later, up to 40% of the treated cells died via caspase-dependent apoptosis between 6 and 12 hours of reoxygenation. The percentage of apoptotic cells was 1.6- to 3-fold greater in Hsp56- and GFP-infected EC than in Hsp70- or Hsp27-infected EC. The last 2 groups exhibited a lesser extent of procaspase-9 and procaspase-3 activation within 6–9 hours of reoxygenation. The cytoprotective effects of overexpressed Hsp70 and Hsp27 were observed not only in the case of infection before hypoxia but also when EC were infected at the start of reoxygenation or 1–2 hours later. An increase in the Hsp70 and Hsp27 levels in infected EC correlated well with their resistance to apoptosis under reoxygenation. These findings suggest that overexpression of Hsp70 or Hsp27, if it occurs in the involved cells at the early stage of postischemic reperfusion, can still be cytoprotective.
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