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International Journal of Hypertension
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 859235, 19 pages
Review Article

Therapeutic Potential of Heme Oxygenase-1/Carbon Monoxide in Lung Disease

1Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, NM 87108, USA
2College of Arts and Sciences, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA
3Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Received 14 August 2011; Accepted 6 October 2011

Academic Editor: David E. Stec

Copyright © 2012 Myrna Constantin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Heme oxygenase (HO), a catabolic enzyme, provides the rate-limiting step in the oxidative breakdown of heme, to generate carbon monoxide (CO), iron, and biliverdin-IXα. Induction of the inducible form, HO-1, in tissues is generally regarded as a protective mechanism. Over the last decade, considerable progress has been made in defining the therapeutic potential of HO-1 in a number of preclinical models of lung tissue injury and disease. Likewise, tissue-protective effects of CO, when applied at low concentration, have been observed in many of these models. Recent studies have expanded this concept to include chemical CO-releasing molecules (CORMs). Collectively, salutary effects of the HO-1/CO system have been demonstrated in lung inflammation/acute lung injury, lung and vascular transplantation, sepsis, and pulmonary hypertension models. The beneficial effects of HO-1/CO are conveyed in part through the inhibition or modulation of inflammatory, apoptotic, and proliferative processes. Recent advances, however, suggest that the regulation of autophagy and the preservation of mitochondrial homeostasis may serve as additional candidate mechanisms. Further preclinical and clinical trials are needed to ascertain the therapeutic potential of HO-1/CO in human clinical disease.