Hemopexin (Hx) is a plasma glycoprotein mainly expressed in liver and, less abundantly, in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Hx has a high binding affinity with heme and is considered to be a major transport vehicle of heme into the liver, thus preventing both heme-catalyzed oxidative damage and heme-bound iron loss. To determine the physiologic relevance of heme-Hx complex formation, Hx-deficient mice were generated by homologous recombination in embryonic stem (ES) cells. The Hx-deficient mice were viable and fertile. Their plasma iron level and blood parameters were comparable to those of control mice and they showed no evidence of tissue lesions caused by oxidative damage or abnormal iron deposits. Moreover, they were sensitive to acute hemolysis, as are wild-type mice. Nevertheless, Hx-null mice recovered more slowly after hemolysis and were seen to have more severe renal damage than controls. After hemolytic stimulus, Hx-deficient mice presented prolonged hemoglobinuria with a higher kidney iron load and higher lipid peroxidation than control mice. Moreover, Hx-null mice showed altered posthemolysis haptoglobin (Hp) turnover in as much as Hp persisted in the circulation after hemolytic stimulus. These data indicate that, although Hx is not crucial either for iron metabolism or as a protection against oxidative stress under physiologic conditions, it does play an important protective role after hemolytic processes.
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