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Heme Oxygenase: Who Needs It?

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Heme is a molecule that is synthesized by the sequential actions of eight enzymes and is ubiquitous throughout nature. For many years it has been known that heme is also catabolized to yield biliverdin (which is subsequently reduced to bilirubin), one atom of iron, and one molecule of carbon monoxide. There has been a recent explosion of interest in this degradative process that is catalyzed by the rate-limiting enzyme, heme oxygenase. In particular, there has been a special interest in the potential physiological and pathological roles that may be played by these breakdown products. This minireview will examine some of these potential functional correlates, with special emphasis on potential oxidant and antioxidant effects of the bilirubin, carbon monoxide, and iron that result from the activity of heme oxygenase.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-12-01

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