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J Biol Chem. 2005 May 27;280(21):20660-5. Epub 2005 Mar 25.

Divergent distribution in vascular and avascular mammalian retinae links neuroglobin to cellular respiration.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Animal Physiology, Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, D-55099 Mainz, Germany.


The visual function of the vertebrate retina relies on sufficient supply with oxygen. Neuroglobin is a respiratory protein thought to play an essential role in oxygen homeostasis of neuronal cells. For further understanding of its function, we compared the distribution of neuroglobin and mitochondria in both vascular and avascular mammalian retinae. In the vascular retinae of mouse and rat, oxygen is supplied by the outer choroidal, deep retinal, and inner capillaries. We show that in this type of retina, mitochondria are concentrated in the inner segments of photoreceptor cells, the outer and the inner plexiform layers, and the ganglion cell layer. These are the same regions in which oxygen consumption takes place and in which neuroglobin is present at high levels. In the avascular retina of guinea pig the deep retinal and inner capillaries are absent. Therefore, only the inner segments of the photoreceptors adjacent to choroidal capillaries display an oxidative metabolism. We demonstrate that in the retina of guinea pigs both neuroglobin and mitochondria are restricted to this layer. Our results clearly demonstrate an association of neuroglobin and mitochondria, thus supporting the hypothesis that neuroglobin is a respiratory protein that supplies oxygen to the respiratory chain.

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