CO as a cellular signaling molecule

Hong Pyo Kim, Stefan W. Ryter, Augustine M.K. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

384 Scopus citations


Many biological functions of heme oxygenase (HO), such as cytoprotection against oxidative stress, vasodilation, neurotransmission in the central or peripheral nervous systems, and anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, or anti-proliferative potential, have been attributed to its enzymatic byproduct carbon monoxide (CO), although roles for biliverdin/bilirubin and iron have also been proposed. In addition to these well-characterized effects, recent findings reveal that HO-derived CO may act as an oxygen sensor and circadian modulator of heme biosynthesis. In lymphocytes, CO may participate in regulatory T cell function. A number of the known signaling effects of CO depend on stimulation of soluble guanylate cyclase and/or activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK). Furthermore, modulation of caveolin-1 status may serve as an essential component of certain aspects of CO action, such as growth control. In this review, we summarize recent findings of the beneficial or detrimental effects of endogenous CO with an emphasis on the signaling pathways and downstream targets that trigger the action of this gas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-449
Number of pages39
JournalAnnual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology
StatePublished - 2006


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Guanylate cyclase
  • Mitogen-activated protein kinase
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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