Hemoglobin is the major oxygen-carrying system of the blood, but has many potentially dangerous side effects due to oxidation and reduction reactions of the heme-bound iron and oxygen. Extracellular hemoglobin, resulting from hemolysis or exogenous infusion, is shown to be an important pathogenic factor in a growing number of diseases. This review briefly outlines the oxidative/reductive toxic reactions of hemoglobin and its metabolites. It also describes physiological protection mechanisms that have evolved against extracellular hemoglobin, with a focus on the most recently discovered: the heme- and radical-binding protein α<sub>1</sub>-microglobulin (A1M). This protein is found in all vertebrates including man and operates by rapidly clearing cytosols and extravascular fluids of heme groups and free radicals released from hemoglobin. Five groups of pathological conditions with high concentrations of extracellular hemoglobin are described: hemolytic anemias and transfusion reactions, the pregnancy complication preeclampsia, cerebral intraventricular hemorrhage of premature infants, chronic inflammatory leg ulcers, and infusion of hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers as blood substitutes. Finally, possible treatments of these conditions are discussed, giving special attention to the described protective effects of A1M.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Cell and Molecular Biology