Emerging role of carbon monoxide in regulation of cellular pathways and in the maintenance of gastric mucosal integrity

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Graphical abstractHeme oxygenase (HO) catalyzes the degradation of toxic free heme to the equimolar amounts of biliverdin, Fe2+ and concurrently releases of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is nowadays increasingly recognized as an important signaling molecule throughout the body that is involved in many physiological processes and shows multidirectional biological activity. Recent evidence indicates that CO exhibits the anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, anti-apoptotic, anti-aggregatory and vasodilatory properties. The cellular mechanisms underlying the activity of CO involve stimulation of cGMP-dependent signaling pathway and large conductance calcium activated K+ channels, the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases and the nuclear factor k-light chain-enhancer of activated B cells transcription factor pathway. Stimulation of endogenous CO production by HO inducers or the inhalation of CO or the delivery of this gaseous molecule by novel pharmaceutical agents have been found in experimental animal models to be promising in the future therapy of various diseases. CO appears to act as a significant component of the complex mechanism of gastrointestinal (GI) mucosal defense. This gaseous molecule plays an important role in diabetic gastroparesis, prevention of the upper GI mucosal damage, post-operative ileus and the healing of ulcerative colitis. This review focuses on the better understanding mechanisms through which CO contributes to the mechanism of protection, resistance to injury and ulcer healing. It is becoming apparent that the pleiotropic effect of this molecule may increase clinical applicability of CO donors and their implementation in many pharmacological research areas, pharmaceutical industry and health-care system.

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