Neuroglobin and cytoglobin in search of their role in the vertebrate globin family

Thomas Hankeln, Bettina Ebner, Christine Fuchs, Frank Gerlach, Mark Haberkamp, Tilmann L. Laufs, Anja Roesner, Marc Schmidt, Bettina Weich, Sylvia Wystub, Sigrid Saaler-Reinhardt, Stefan Reuss, Martino Bolognesi, Daniele De Sanctis, Michael C. Marden, Laurent Kiger, Luc Moens, Sylvia Dewilde, Eviatar Nevo, Aaron AviviRoy E. Weber, Angela Fago, Thorsten Burmester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroglobin and cytoglobin are two recent additions to the family of heme-containing respiratory proteins of man and other vertebrates. Here, we review the present state of knowledge of the structures, ligand binding kinetics, evolution and expression patterns of these two proteins. These data provide a first glimpse into the possible physiological roles of these globins in the animal's metabolism. Both, neuroglobin and cytoglobin are structurally similar to myoglobin, although they contain distinct cavities that may be instrumental in ligand binding. Kinetic and structural studies show that neuroglobin and cytoglobin belong to the class of hexa-coordinated globins with a biphasic ligand-binding kinetics. Nevertheless, their oxygen affinities resemble that of myoglobin. While neuroglobin is evolutionarily related to the invertebrate nerve-globins, cytoglobin shares a more recent common ancestry with myoglobin. Neuroglobin expression is confined mainly to brain and a few other tissues, with the highest expression observed in the retina. Present evidence points to an important role of neuroglobin in neuronal oxygen homeostasis and hypoxia protection, though other functions are still conceivable. Cytoglobin is predominantly expressed in fibroblasts and related cell types, but also in distinct nerve cell populations. Much less is known about its function, although in fibroblasts it might be involved in collagen synthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Inorganic Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are very grateful to Jonathan and Beatrice Wittenberg (New York), Rainald Schmidt-Kastner (Miami), Nigel Woolf (San Diego) and Joachim Fandrey (Essen) for discussions. This work was supported by grants from DFG (Ha2103/3 and Bu956/5 to T.H. and T.B.), the Danish Natural Science Research Council (A.F. and R.E.W), the European Union FP5 project (QLG3-CT2002-01548) to M.B., and the EU project ‘Neuroglobin and the survival of the brain’ (QLRT-2001-01548). S.D. is a postdoctoral fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders.


  • Cytoglobin
  • Neuroglobin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuroglobin and cytoglobin in search of their role in the vertebrate globin family'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this