Myoglobin's old and new clothes: From molecular structure to function in living cells

Gerolf Gros, Beatrice A. Wittenberg, Thomas Jue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Myoglobin, a mobile carrier of oxygen, is without a doubt an important player central to the physiological function of heart and skeletal muscle. Recently, researchers have surmounted technical challenges to measure Mb diffusion in the living cell. Their observations have stimulated a discussion about the relative contribution made by Mb-facilitated diffusion to the total oxygen flux. The calculation of the relative contribution, however, depends upon assumptions, the cell model and cell architecture, cell bioenergetics, oxygen supply and demand. The analysis suggests that important differences can be observed whether steady-state or transient conditions are considered. This article reviews the current evidence underlying the evaluation of the biophysical parameters of myoglobin-facilitated oxygen diffusion in cells, specifically the intracellular concentration of myoglobin, the intracellular diffusion coefficient of myoglobin and the intracellular myoglobin oxygen saturation. The review considers the role of myoglobin in oxygen transport in vertebrate heart and skeletal muscle, in the diving seal during apnea as well as the role of the analogous leghemoglobin of plants. The possible role of myoglobin in intracellular fatty acid transport is addressed. Finally, the recent measurements of myoglobin diffusion inside muscle cells are discussed in terms of their implications for cytoarchitecture and microviscosity in these cells and the identification of intracellular impediments to the diffusion of proteins inside cells. The recent experimental data then help to refine our understanding of Mb function and establish a basis for future investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2713-2725
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Cytoplasm
  • Diffusion
  • Fatty acid
  • Heart
  • Seal
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Insect Science
  • Aquatic Science
  • Medicine(all)


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