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Blood. 2002 Jun 1;99(11):4160-5.

Neutrophil activation by heme: implications for inflammatory processes.

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Departamento de Farmacologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Heme, a ubiquitous iron-containing compound, is present in large amounts in many cells and is inherently dangerous, particularly when it escapes from intracellular sites. The release of heme from damaged cells and tissues is supposed to be higher in diseases such as malaria and hemolytic anemia or in trauma and hemorrhage. We investigated here the role of free ferriprotoporphyrin IX (hemin) as a proinflammatory molecule, with particular attention to its ability to activate neutrophil responses. Injecting hemin into the rat pleural cavity resulted in a dose-dependent migration of neutrophils, indicating that hemin is able to promote the recruitment of these cells in vivo. In vitro, hemin induced human neutrophil chemotaxis and cytoskeleton reorganization, as revealed by the increase of neutrophil actin polymerization. Exposure of human neutrophils to 3 microM hemin activated the expression of the chemokine interleukin-8, as demonstrated by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, indicating a putative molecular mechanism by which hemin induces chemotaxis in vivo. Brief incubation of human neutrophils with micromolar concentrations of hemin (1-20 microM) triggered the oxidative burst, and the production of reactive oxygen species was directly proportional to the concentration of hemin added to the cells. Finally, we observed that human neutrophil protein kinase C was activated by hemin in vitro, with a K(1/2) of 5 microM. Taken together, these results suggest a role for hemin as a proinflammatory agent able to induce polymorphonuclear neutrophil activation in situations of clinical relevance, such as hemolysis or hemoglobinemia.

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