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Am J Pathol. 2005 Jan;166(1):27-37.

Carbon monoxide suppresses bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis.

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Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, NW 628 UPMC Montefiore, 3459 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is an incurable fibrosing disorder that progresses relentlessly to respiratory failure. We hypothesized that a product of heme oxygenase activity, carbon monoxide (CO), may have anti-fibrotic effects. To test this hypothesis, mice treated with intratracheal bleomycin were exposed to low-concentration inhaled CO or ambient air. Lungs of mice treated with CO had significantly lower hydroxyproline accumulation than controls. Fibroblast proliferation, thought to play a central role in the progression of fibrosis, was suppressed by in vitro exposure to CO. CO caused increased cellular levels of p21(Cip1) and decreased levels of cyclins A and D. This effect was independent of the observed suppression of MAPK's phosphorylation by CO but was dependent on increased cGMP levels. Further, CO-exposed cells elaborated significantly less fibronectin and collagen-1 than control cells. This same effect was seen in vivo. Suppression of collagen-1 production did not depend on MAPK or guanylate cyclase signaling pathways but did depend on the transcriptional regulator Id1. Taken together, these data suggest that CO exerts an anti-fibrotic effect in the lung, and this effect may be due to suppression of fibroblast proliferation and/or suppression of matrix deposition by fibroblasts.

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