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The Significance of Neuroglobin in the Brain

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Since its discovery in 2000, neuroglobin (Nb) has been demonstrated to have an essential and conserved function in vertebrates with the consequential discovery of a neuroprotective role. Nb is a member of the globin superfamily and is predominantly expressed in neurons of the central and peripheral nervous system. Thorough studies have been performed to elucidate the molecular structure of Nb and its ligand binding characteristics. The precise physiological function and mechanism of action of Nb is beginning to be established, with a number of hypotheses having been put forward. While Nb shares an intrinsic affinity for low-molecular weight diatomic gases similar to other globins, the relatively low level of Nb expression in cerebral neurons places limitations on its potential to function as a reservoir for oxygen, especially during periods of acute ischemia. In vitro studies have suggested that the neuroprotective role of Nb may be due to its ability to scavenge reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen (RNS) species. However other studies have proposed Nb as being part of a signalling chain that transmits the redox state of the cell that is protective against oxidative stress or that inhibits apoptosis. This review is intended to summarize the structural, genomic and functional data on neuroglobin to date, thereby providing perspectives for future research on these molecules that may have substantial biomedical implications.
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Keywords: Neuroglobin; antioxidant; hypoxia; ischemia; neuroprotection; oxygen transport

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Discipline of Pathology, Bosch Institute, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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