Lung heme oxygenase-1 is elevated in acute respiratory distress syndrome

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We aimed to quantify concentrations of inducible heme oxygenase (HO)-1 in the lungs of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and to investigate its role as a source of ferrous iron and as a signaling agent for iron regulation. Control of such processes by heme oxygenase has implications for the onset, progression, and resolution of ARDS.


Retrospective analysis of archived samples.


Adult intensive care unit of a postgraduate teaching hospital.


Patients admitted to the adult intensive care unit who fulfilled the American-European Consensus Conference criteria for ARDS.


Biochemical and immunohistochemical studies using bronchoalveolar lavage fluid or lung tissue were performed in patients with established ARDS and in those undergoing lung resection (controls).

Measurements and Main Results:

Concentrations of heme oxygenase protein were significantly elevated in lung tissue (193.7 ± 13.27 vs. 81.0 ± 16.0%, p < .01) and in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (2.4 × 105 vs. 1.4 × 105 densitometric units, p = .047) taken from patients with ARDS compared with controls. Concentrations of heme oxygenase protein in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from patients with ARDS correlated positively and significantly with changes in the concentrations of ferritin (r = .697, p = .02) and the iron saturation of transferrin (r = .8, p = .014) but correlated negatively and significantly with concentrations of bleomycin-detectable (redoxactive) iron (r = −.73, p = .031). Significantly elevated (p < .05) concentrations of heme oxygenase staining in cell types expressing this protein were detected in patients with ARDS, compared with concentrations in the same cells taken from controls undergoing lung resection.


Heme oxygenase protein is elevated in the lungs of patients with ARDS and may contribute to the changes in iron mobilization, signaling, and regulation seen in this condition.

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