The therapeutic potential of carbon monoxide

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2010 Sep;9(9):728-43. doi: 10.1038/nrd3228.


Carbon monoxide (CO) is increasingly being accepted as a cytoprotective and homeostatic molecule with important signalling capabilities in physiological and pathophysiological situations. The endogenous production of CO occurs through the activity of constitutive (haem oxygenase 2) and inducible (haem oxygenase 1) haem oxygenases, enzymes that are responsible for the catabolism of haem. Through the generation of its products, which in addition to CO includes the bile pigments biliverdin, bilirubin and ferrous iron, the haem oxygenase 1 system also has an obligatory role in the regulation of the stress response and in cell adaptation to injury. This Review provides an overview of the physiology of CO, summarizes the effects of CO gas and CO-releasing molecules in preclinical animal models of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disorders and organ transplantation, and discusses the development and therapeutic options for the exploitation of this simple gaseous molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism
  • Carbon Monoxide / pharmacology
  • Carbon Monoxide / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Organ Transplantation / methods
  • Signal Transduction


  • Carbon Monoxide