Networking between cells is critical for proper functioning of the cellular milieu and is mediated by cascades of highly regulated and overlapping signaling molecules. The enzyme heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) generates three separate signaling molecules through the catalysis of heme - carbon monoxide (CO), biliverdin, and iron - each of which acts via distinct molecular targets to influence cell function, both proximally and distally. This review focuses on state-of-the art developments and insights into the impact of HO-1 and CO on the innate immune response, the effects of which are responsible for an ensemble of functions that help regulate complex immunological responses to bacterial sepsis and ischemia/reperfusion injury. HO-1 exemplifies an evolutionarily conserved system necessary for the cellular milieu to adapt appropriately, function properly, and ensure survival of the organism.
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