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Abstract

Sn-protoporphyrin, a potent competitive inhibitor of heme oxygenase, the rate-limiting enzyme in the degradation of heme to bile pigment, was administered to 10 normal volunteers: 8 males and 2 females. A significant decrease in the levels of serum (mean decrease; 38%) and biliary bilirubin (mean decrease: 47%) was demonstrated in all 10 subjects. The decrease in these parameters lasted for a minimum of 4 days after administration of the metalloporphyrin. Sn-protoporphyrin also facilitated the excretion of endogenous heme in bile during the 24- to 48-hr period following administration of the compound. The metalloporphyrin was rapidly cleared from plasma with a half-life of 3.4 hr. A small amount (3 to 6%) of Sn-protoporphyrin was excreted in both urine and bile. The activity of microsomal heme oxygenase was measured in five human liver samples freshly obtained at the time of cholecystectomy and varied from ˜2 to 4 nmoles bilirubin formed per mg protein per hour. The addition of Sn-protoporphyrin to microsomal heme oxygenase isolated from these liver samples resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in the activity of this enzyme at concentrations of the metalloporphyrin in the range of 10−7 to 10−9M. The findings reported here provide strong evidence that the suppression of biliary and serum bilirubin levels and the enhancement of heme excretion in the bile of the normal volunteers examined in this study were due to inhibition of physiological rates of heme oxidation activity by the synthetic heme analog, Sn-protoporphyrin.