Send to

Choose Destination
Trends Immunol. 2003 Aug;24(8):449-55.

Heme oxygenase-1: unleashing the protective properties of heme.

Author information

Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Montifiore University Hospital, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3459 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 catabolizes heme into three products: carbon monoxide (CO), biliverdin (which is rapidly converted to bilirubin) and free iron (which leads to the induction of ferritin, an iron-binding protein). HO-1 serves as a "protective" gene by virtue of the anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic and anti-proliferative actions of one or more of these three products. Administration of CO, biliverdin, bilirubin or iron-binding compounds is protective in rodent disease models of ischemia-reperfusion injury, allograft and xenograft survival, intimal hyperplasia following balloon injury or as seen in chronic graft rejection and others. We suggest that the products of HO-1 action could be valuable therapeutic agents and speculate that HO-1 functions as a "therapeutic funnel", mediating the beneficial effects attributed to other molecules, such as interleukin-10 (IL-10), inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2; iNOS) and prostaglandins. This Review is the third in a series on the regulation of the immune system by metabolic pathways.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center