Globins are globular proteins for either transport or storage of oxygen which are critical for cellular metabolism. Four globins have been identified in rodent and human brains. Among them, neuroglobin, cytoglobin and hemoglobin chains are constitutively expressed in normal brain, while myoglobin is only expressed in some neurological disorders. Studies on the molecular structure, expression and functional features of these brain globins indicated that they may play crucial roles in maintenance of neural cell survival and activity, including neurons and astrocytes. Their regulation in neurological disorders may help thoroughly understand initiation and progression of ischemia, Alzheimer's disease and glioma, etc. Elucidation of the brain globin functions might remarkably improve medical strategies that sustain neurological homeostasis and treat neurological diseases. Here the expression pattern and functions of brain globins and their involvement in neurological disorders are reviewed.
Keywords: brain; cytoglobin; hemoglobin; ischemia; myoglobin; neurodegeneration; neuroglobin; neuroprotection.