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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1981 Oct;78(10):6466-70.

Prevention of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia by tin protoporphyrin IX, a potent competitive inhibitor of heme oxidation.


The effects of various metalloporphyrins on hepatic heme oxygenase (EC activity were examined in order to identify compounds that could inhibit heme degradation to bile pigment and might therefore be utilized to suppress the development of hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn. Among nine metal-protoporphyrin IX chelates (i.e., metal-hemes) studied, Sn-heme, Mn-heme, and Zn-heme substantially diminished heme oxygenase activity in vivo in the rat. These metalloporphyrins act as competitive inhibitory substrates in the heme oxygenase reaction but are not themselves oxidatively degraded. Sn-heme was the most potent enzyme inhibitor (Ki = 0.011 microM) in liver, spleen, kidney, and skin. Sn-heme administered to newborn animals within the first 72 hr after birth blocked the postnatal increase in heme oxygenase activity that occurs in various tissues. Its effect on the enzyme levels was prompt and protracted. Sn-heme administration also entirely prevented the development of hyperbilirubinemia that normally occurs postnatally. The effect of the metalloporphyrin in lowering the increased concentrations of serum bilirubin in neonates was prompt (within 1 day) and persisted throughout the 42 days after birth. No deleterious effects of Sn-heme treatment of the newborn were observed. This demonstrates that a synthetic metalloporphyrin that is a potent competitive inhibitor of heme oxidation can, when administered to the newborn, also prevent the hyperbilirubinemia that normally develops postnatally. The potential clinical implications of these findings are evident, and it is suggested that the pharmacological properties of Sn-heme and related synthetic metalloporphyrins merit further study.

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