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Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2004 Nov;5(6):554-60.

Heme oxygenase-1 messenger RNA expression is induced in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of pediatric cancer patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome.

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Division of Critical Care Medicine, Department of Developmental Neurobiology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN, USA.



To determine whether heme oxygenase-1 messenger RNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells is induced in pediatric cancer patients with the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and whether this expression correlates with the heme oxygenase-1 products, bilirubin and carboxyhemoglobin.


Prospective, controlled study.


A tertiary care pediatric oncology hospital.


Fourteen patients admitted to the intensive care unit with a diagnosis of SIRS by American College of Chest Physicians/Society for Critical Care Medicine consensus criteria and 17 control patients (off therapy, no acute illness).


Blood for bilirubin, carboxyhemoglobin, and heme oxygenase-1 messenger RNA expression was collected at study entry. SIRS patients continued to have samples collected every 12 hrs for 1 wk or until intensive care unit discharge. Heme oxygenase-1, bilirubin, and carboxyhemoglobin levels of SIRS patients were compared with controls, and correlation between heme oxygenase-1 and products was assessed.


Within 48 hrs of study entry, maximum heme oxygenase-1 expression for all SIRS patients compared with controls was 5.5 +/- 1.0 vs. 1.1 +/- 0.1 (p < .0006). Maximum expression was > or =2.3-fold in 13 of 14 SIRS patients. Maximum heme oxygenase-1 expression also differed from minimum (5.5 +/- 1.0 vs. 1.6 +/- 0.3, p < .003). Maximum bilirubin and carboxyhemoglobin levels within 48 hrs of study entry differed between SIRS patients and controls (3.0 +/- 0.8 vs. 0.3 +/- 0.1, p = .006; and 1.2 +/- 0.2 vs. 0.6 +/- 0.1, p = .001, respectively). Bilirubin, but not carboxyhemoglobin, correlated with heme oxygenase-1 expression (p = .0013).


Heme oxygenase-1 messenger RNA, bilirubin, and carboxyhemoglobin levels were increased within 48 hrs of admission in pediatric cancer patients with SIRS. Heme oxygenase-1 expression correlated with serum bilirubin levels. The increase in heme oxygenase-1 expression may add to the understanding of the increase in serum bilirubin observed in patients with SIRS/sepsis. These findings support a role for heme oxygenase-1 in the physiologic response to inflammatory stress.

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