Redox Biol 2020 Aug 14;37:101687. Epub 2020 Aug 14.
Section of Medicine, Department of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Cardiovascular System, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Vertebrate hemoglobin (Hb) and myoglobin (Mb) were among the first proteins whose structures and sequences were determined over 50 years ago. In the subsequent pregenomic period, numerous related proteins came to light in plants, invertebrates and bacteria, that shared the myoglobin fold, a signature sequence motif characteristic of a 3-on-3 α-helical sandwich. Concomitantly, eukaryote and bacterial globins with a truncated 2-on-2 α-helical fold were discovered. Genomic information over the last 20 years has dramatically expanded the list of known globins, demonstrating their existence in a limited number of archaeal genomes, a majority of bacterial genomes and an overwhelming majority of eukaryote genomes. In vertebrates, 6 additional globin types were identified, namely neuroglobin (Ngb), cytoglobin (Cygb), globin E (GbE), globin X (GbX), globin Y (GbY) and androglobin (Adgb). Furthermore, functions beyond the familiar oxygen transport and storage have been discovered within the vertebrate globin family, including NO metabolism, peroxidase activity, scavenging of free radicals, and signaling functions. The extension of the knowledge on globin functions suggests that the original roles of bacterial globins must have been enzymatic, involved in defense against NO toxicity, and perhaps also as sensors of O, regulating taxis away or towards high O concentrations. In this review, we aimed to discuss the evolution and remarkable functional diversity of vertebrate globins with particular focus on the variety of non-canonical expression sites of mammalian globins and their according impressive variability of atypical functions.