Inflammation & allergy drug targets

Pro-stimulatory role of methemoglobin in inflammation through hemin oxidation and polymerization.

PMID 23441992


Inflammation or vascular occlusion by parasitized red blood cell contributes to the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria. The current study aimed to characterize the role of major pro-oxidant factor methemoglobin present in the malaria culture supernatant contributing in inflammation during malaria. Heme and heme polymer stimulate macrophage to secrete large amount of reactive oxygen species into the external micro-environment. The addition of methemoglobin along with heme or heme polymer amplifies production of ROS from macrophages several folds. Methemoglobin mediated stimulatory effect is not due to release of iron, enhanced production of H2O2 or mutual interaction of reaction components. Spectroscopic studies show that methemoglobin accepts heme as a substrate and oxidizes it through a single electron transfer mechanism. Heme oxidation product is a heme polymer with similar chemical and structural properties to synthetic β-hematin. Phenyl N-t-butylnitrone inhibits heme polymerization (IC50=30 nM) and indicates the absolute necessity of heme oxidation and heme free radical generation for heme polymerization. Methemoglobin produced heme polymer is a potent pro-inflammatory factor to release ROS into external microenvironment. Interestingly, methemoglobin not only produces pro-inflammatory heme polymer, but it also amplifies the potential of heme or preformed heme polymer (haemozoin or β-hematin) to produce several folds high ROS production from macrophages. This study illustrates the pro-inflammatory effect of methemoglobin, the underlying novel mechanism by which this occurs and a possible clinical intervention. Based on the results, we recommend methemoglobin directed peroxidase inhibitors as an adjuvant therapy during malaria.