Involvement of hemoglobins in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease

Meric A. Altinoz*, Sinan Guloksuz, Rainald Schmidt-Kastner, Gunter Kenis, Bahri Ince, Bart P. F. Rutten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Hemoglobins (Hbs) are heme-containing proteins binding oxygen, carbon monoxide, and nitric oxide. While erythrocytes are the most well-known location of Hbs, Hbs also exist in neurons, glia and oligodendroglia and they are primarily localized in the inner mitochondrial membrane of neurons with likely roles in cellular respiration and buffering protons. Recently, studies have suggested links between hypoxia and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer Disease (AD) and furthermore suggested involvement of Hbs in the pathogenesis of AD. While cellular immunohistochemical studies on AD brains have observed reduced levels of Hb in the cytoplasm of pre-tangle and tangle-bearing neurons, other studies on homogenates of AD brain samples observed increased Hb levels. This potential discrepancy may result from differential presence and function of intracellular versus extracellular Hbs. Intracellular Hbs may protect neurons against hypoxia and hyperoxia. On the other hand, extracellular free Hb and its degradation products may trigger inflammatory immune and oxidative reactions against neural macromolecules and/or damage the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, biological processes leading to reduction of Hb transcription (including clinically silent Hb mutations) may influence intra-erythrocytic and neural Hbs, and reduce the transport of oxygen, carbon monoxide and nitric oxide which may be involved in the (patho)physiology of neurodegenerative disorders such as AD. Agents such as erythropoietin, which stimulate both erythropoiesis, reduce eryptosis and induce intracellular neural Hbs may exert multiple beneficial effects on the onset and course of AD. Thus, evidence accumulates for a role of Hbs in the central nervous system while Hbs deserve more attention as possible candidate molecules involved in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110680
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019


  • Free hemoglobin toxicity
  • Neural hemoglobins
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • A-BETA

Cite this