CO as a cellular signaling molecule Review uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Signal Transduction


  • 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.

publication date

  • February 27, 2006



  • Review



  • eng

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.46.120604.141053

PubMed ID

  • 16402911

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 411

end page

  • 49


  • 46