The heme oxygenase (HO) system has received significant attention in recent years as a possible novel target for antihypertensive therapy. HO is the rate limiting enzyme in the metabolism of heme releasing bioactive molecules carbon monoxide (CO) and bilirubin each with beneficial cardiovascular actions. Induction of HO-1 has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in several animal models of hypertension In addition to its blood pressure lowering effects, HO can also reduce target organ injury and protect against ischemic injury. Growing experimental evidence suggests that increases in either CO or bilirubin alone may also lower blood pressure and provide protection against hypertensive and ischemic end-organ damage. In this review, we will discuss the current understanding of the actions of the HO on the kidney and cardiovascular systems and how the HO system or its products may be manipulated for antihypertensive therapy.
Keywords: Hypertension, heme oxygenase, carbon monoxide, biliverdin, bilirubin
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