Heme oxygenase cleaves the heme ring at the alpha methene bridge to form biliverdin. Biliverdin is subsequently converted to bilirubin by biliverdin reductase. Under physiological conditions, the activity of heme oxygenase is highest in the spleen, where senescent erythrocytes are sequestrated and destroyed. Exhibits cytoprotective effects since excess of free heme sensitizes cells to undergo apoptosis.
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