Hemoglobin and its role in the oocyte and early embryo

6 May 2019:

Hemoglobin expression in reproductive cells and the role of hemoglobin on oocyte and early embryo development is the focus of this latest CNBP review paper published in the journal ‘Biology of Reproduction’ (lead author Megan Lim based at the University of Adelaide).

Journal: Biology of Reproduction.

Publication title: Hemoglobin: potential roles in the oocyte and early embryo.

Authors: Megan Lim, Hannah M Brown, Karen L Kind, Jeremy G Thompson, Kylie R Dunning.

Abstract: Hemoglobin (Hb) is commonly known for its capacity to bind and transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in erythroid cells. However, it plays additional roles in cellular function and health due to its capacity to bind other gases including nitric oxide. Further, Hb acts as a potent antioxidant, quenching reactive oxygen species. Despite its potential roles in cellular function, the preponderance of Hb research remains focused on its role in oxygen regulation. There is increasing evidence that Hb expression is more ubiquitous than previously thought, with Hb and its variants found in a myriad of cell types ranging from macrophages to spermatozoa. The majority of non-erythroid cell types that express Hb are situated within hypoxic environments, suggesting Hb may play a role in hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-regulated gene expression by controlling the level of oxygen available or as an adaptation to low oxygen providing a mechanism to store oxygen. Oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryo development occur within the low oxygen environments of the antral follicle and oviduct/uterus, respectively. Interestingly, Hb was recently found in human cumulus and granulosa cells and murine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) and preimplantation embryos. Here, we consolidate and analyze the research generated to-date on Hb expression in non-erythroid cells with a particular focus on reproductive cell types. We outline future directions of this research to elucidate the role of Hb during oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryo development and finally, we explore the potential clinical applications and benefits of Hb supplementation during the in vitro culture of gametes and embryos.