Myoglobin: a pseudo-enzymatic scavenger of nitric oxide

Paolo Ascenzi, Maurizio Brunori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myoglobin (Mb) is reported in biochemistry and physiology textbooks to act as an O2 reservoir and to facilitate O2 diffusion from capillaries to mitochondria, to sustain cellular respiration. Recently, it has been proposed that Mb is an intracellular scavenger of bioactive nitric oxide (NO), regulating its level in the skeletal and cardiac muscle and thereby protecting mitochondrial respiration, which is impaired by NO. This novel function of Mb is based on the rapid and irreversible reaction of ferrous oxygenated Mb (MbO2) with NO yielding ferric oxidized Mb (metMb) and nitrate (NO3-). The efficiency of this process, which is postulated to depend on the superoxide (O2-) character acquired by O2 once bound to the heme iron, may be enhanced by intramolecular diffusion of NO trapped momentarily into cavities of the protein matrix. O2 can also react with ferrous nitrosylated Mb (MbNO), albeit very slowly, leading to metMb and NO3-. The O2-dependent NO-detoxification process may be considered to be pseudo-enzymatic given that metMb obtained by the primary reaction of MbO2 with NO is reduced back to ferrous Mb by a specific metMb-reductase, and can therefore repeat a cycle of NO conversion to harmless nitrate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-185
Number of pages3
JournalBiochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Myoglobin
  • Nitric oxide-detoxification
  • Pseudo-enzymatic activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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