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Emerging concepts on the anti-inflammatory actions of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs)

Roberto Motterlini*, Benjamin Haas and Roberta Foresti*

Author Affiliations

INSERM U955, Equipe 3, Faculty of Medicine, University Paris-Est Creteil, Creteil, France

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Medical Gas Research 2012, 2:28  doi:10.1186/2045-9912-2-28

Published: 21 November 2012


Carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) are a class of organometallo compounds capable of delivering controlled quantities of CO gas to cells and tissues thus exerting a broad spectrum of pharmacological effects. CO-RMs containing transition metal carbonyls were initially implemented to mimic the function of heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX1), a stress inducible defensive protein that degrades heme to CO and biliverdin leading to anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Ten years after their discovery, the research on the chemistry and biological activities of CO-RMs has greatly intensified indicating that their potential use as CO delivering agents for the treatment of several pathological conditions is feasible. Although CO-RMs are a class of compounds that structurally diverge from traditional organic-like pharmaceuticals, their behaviour in the biological environments is progressively being elucidated revealing interesting features of metal-carbonyl chemistry towards cellular targets. Specifically, the presence of carbonyl groups bound to transition metals such as ruthenium, iron or manganese appears to make CO-RMs unique in their ability to transfer CO intracellularly and amplify the mechanisms of signal transduction mediated by CO. In addition to their well-established vasodilatory activities and protective effects against organ ischemic damage, CO-RMs are emerging for their striking anti-inflammatory properties which may be the result of the multiple activities of metal carbonyls in the control of redox signaling, oxidative stress and cellular respiration. Here, we review evidence on the pharmacological effects of CO-RMs in models of acute and chronic inflammation elaborating on some emerging concepts that may help to explain the chemical reactivity and mechanism(s) of action of this distinctive class of compounds in biological systems.

Inflammation; Carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs); Oxidative stress; Inflammatory mediators; Bactericidal activities