Heme oxygenase-1 promoter polymorphisms: do they modulate neonatal hyperbilirubinemia?

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The role of genetic factors in the modulation of serum bilirubin levels and the pathophysiology of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is being increasingly recognized. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is the rate-limiting enzyme by which heme is catabolized to biliverdin and thence to bilirubin, with the simultaneous release of equimolar quantities of ferrous iron (Fe3+) and carbon monoxide. Polymorphisms of the HO-1 gene promoter may modulate transcriptional activity, thereby augmenting or attenuating HO-1 expression with resultant modulation of the production of bilirubin. Few studies have related these polymorphisms to neonatal bilirubin metabolism and have reported conflicting results. In this clinical review, we surveyed the role of HO-1 gene promoter polymorphisms in the control of bilirubin production and further considered their role, if any, in the pathophysiology of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia.

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