Hemoglobin and heme scavenger receptors

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2010 Feb;12(2):261-73. doi: 10.1089/ars.2009.2792.


Heme, the functional group of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and other hemoproteins, is a highly toxic substance when it appears in the extracellular milieu. To circumvent potential harmful effects of heme from hemoproteins released during physiological or pathological cell damage (such as hemolysis and rhabdomyolysis), specific high capacity scavenging systems have evolved in the mammalian organism. Two major systems, which essentially function in a similar way by means of a circulating latent plasma carrier protein that upon ligand binding is recognized by a receptor, are represented by a) the hemoglobin-binding haptoglobin and the receptor CD163, and b) the heme-binding hemopexin and the receptor low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein/CD91. Apart from the disclosure of the molecular basis for these important heme scavenging systems by identifying the functional link between the carrier proteins and the respective receptors, research over the last decade has shown how these systems, and the metabolic pathways they represent, closely relate to inflammation and other biological events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / metabolism
  • Haptoglobins / metabolism
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Hemopexin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor-Related Protein-1 / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Scavenger / metabolism*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • CD163 antigen
  • Haptoglobins
  • Hemoglobins
  • Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor-Related Protein-1
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Scavenger
  • Heme
  • Hemopexin