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Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Apr 15;38(8):979-88.

HO in pregnancy.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Botterell Hall, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.


The enzyme heme oxygenase (HO) has been implicated in several physiological functions throughout the body including control of vascular tone and regulation of the inflammatory and apoptotic cascades as well as contributing to the antioxidant capabilities in several organ systems. These various properties attributed to HO are carried out through the catalytic products of heme degradation, namely carbon monoxide (CO), biliverdin, and free iron (Fe2+). As the newly emerging roles of HO in normal organ function have come to light, researchers in several disciplines have assessed the role of this enzyme in various physiological and pathological changes taking place in the human body over a lifetime. Included in this new wave of interest is the involvement of HO, and its by-products, in the normal function of the vital organ of pregnancy, the placenta. In this review the role of HO, and its catalytic products, will be examined in the context of pregnancy. The different isoforms of the HO enzyme (HO-1, HO-2, HO-3) have been localized throughout placental tissue, and have been shown to be physiologically active. The HO protein and more specifically its catalytic by-products (CO, biliverdin, and Fe2+) have been postulated to be involved in the maintenance of uterine quiescence throughout gestation, regulation of hemodynamic control within the uterus and placenta, regulation of the apoptotic and inflammatory cascades in trophoblast cells, and the maintenance of a balance of the oxidant-antioxidant status within the placental tissues. The association between this enzyme system, and its above-noted roles throughout pregnancy, with the hypertensive disorder of pregnancy preeclampsia (PET), will also be examined. It is hypothesized that a decrease in HO expression and/or activity throughout gestation would be capable of initiating several pathological processes involved in the etiology of PET. This hypothesis has led to further discussion emphasizing the possibility of novel therapeutic designs targeting this enzyme system for the treatment of PET.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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