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Increased serum HO-1 in hemophagocytic syndrome and adult-onset Still's disease: use in the differential diagnosis of hyperferritinemia

Yohei Kirino1, Mitsuhiro Takeno1, Mika Iwasaki1, Atsuhisa Ueda1, Shigeru Ohno1, Akira Shirai1, Heiwa Kanamori1, Katsuaki Tanaka2 and Yoshiaki Ishigatsubo1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology, Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine, Yokohama, Japan

2 Yokohama City University Medical Center, Department of Gastroenterological Center, Yokohama, Japan

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7:R616-R624  doi:10.1186/ar1721

Published: 21 March 2005


Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an inducible heme-degrading enzyme, is expressed by macrophages and endothelial cells in response to various stresses. Because ferritin synthesis is stimulated by Fe2+, which is a product of heme degradation, we examined the relation between HO-1 and ferritin levels in the serum of patients with hemophagocytic syndrome (HPS), adult-onset Still's disease (ASD), and other diseases that may cause hyperferritinemia. Seven patients with HPS, 10 with ASD, 73 with other rheumatic diseases, 20 with liver diseases, 10 recipients of repeated blood transfusion because of hematological disorders, and 22 healthy volunteers were enrolled. Serum HO-1 and ferritin levels were determined by ELISA. Expression of HO-1 mRNA and protein by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was determined by real-time PCR and immunocytochemical techniques, respectively. Serum levels of HO-1 were significantly higher in patients with active HPS and ASD than in the other groups (P < 0.01). HO-1 levels were not elevated in patients with other causes of hyperferritinemia but were moderately elevated in patients with dermatomyositis/polymyositis. Among patients with HPS and ASD, serum HO-1 levels correlated closely with serum ferritin levels, and the levels of both returned to normal after therapy had induced remission. Increased expression of HO-1 mRNA was confirmed in PBMCs from some patients with HPS and ASD. Hyperferritinemia correlated closely with increased serum HO-1 in patients with HPS and ASD but not other conditions, indicating that measurement of serum HO-1 and ferritin levels would be useful in the differential diagnosis of hyperferritinemia and perhaps also in monitoring disease activity in HPS and ASD.