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Biochem Mol Med. 1997 Aug;61(2):136-42.

New physiological importance of two classic residual products: carbon monoxide and bilirubin.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Medicine and Pharmaceutics, Carol Davila, Bucharest, Romania.


Heme oxygenase the rate-limiting step in the degradation of heme to bilirubin, generates carbon monoxide. This gaseous molecule plays important roles in neuronal signaling and modulation of vascular tone. Additionally, carbon monoxide is involved in some pathological conditions (e.g., ischemia, endotoxic shock, excitotoxicity) as a protective or toxic factor. Bilirubin, another heme metabolite, exhibits intriguing biological activities as an antioxidant, an antimutagen, and an anti-complement agent. Vital functions and the dual nature displayed by these two heme metabolites are discussed.

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