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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2012 Sep 1;17(5):813-46. doi: 10.1089/ars.2011.4282. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Pathological conditions involving extracellular hemoglobin: molecular mechanisms, clinical significance, and novel therapeutic opportunities for α(1)-microglobulin.

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Division of Infection Medicine, Lund University, Sweden.


Hemoglobin (Hb) is the major oxygen (O(2))-carrying system of the blood but has many potentially dangerous side effects due to oxidation and reduction reactions of the heme-bound iron and O(2). Extracellular Hb, resulting from hemolysis or exogenous infusion, is shown to be an important pathogenic factor in a growing number of diseases. This review briefly outlines the oxidative/reductive toxic reactions of Hb and its metabolites. It also describes physiological protection mechanisms that have evolved against extracellular Hb, with a focus on the most recently discovered: the heme- and radical-binding protein α(1)-microglobulin (A1M). This protein is found in all vertebrates, including man, and operates by rapidly clearing cytosols and extravascular fluids of heme groups and free radicals released from Hb. Five groups of pathological conditions with high concentrations of extracellular Hb are described: hemolytic anemias and transfusion reactions, the pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia, cerebral intraventricular hemorrhage of premature infants, chronic inflammatory leg ulcers, and infusion of Hb-based O(2) carriers as blood substitutes. Finally, possible treatments of these conditions are discussed, giving a special attention to the described protective effects of A1M.

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