The social network of carbon monoxide in medicine

Trends Mol Med. 2013 Jan;19(1):3-11. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Nov 8.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism*
  • Carbon Monoxide / pharmacology
  • Heme Oxygenase-1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Reperfusion Injury / immunology
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Sepsis / metabolism


  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Heme Oxygenase-1