Mechanisms and physiological function of daily haemoglobin oxidation rhythms in red blood cells

Andrew D. Beale, Edward A. Hayter, Priya Crosby, Utham K. Valekunja, Rachel S. Edgar, Johanna E. Chesham, Elizabeth S. Maywood, Fatima H. Labeed, Akhilesh B. Reddy, Kenneth P. Wright, Kathryn S. Lilley, David A. Bechtold, Michael H. Hastings, John S. O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular circadian rhythms confer temporal organisation upon physiology that is fundamental to human health. Rhythms are present in red blood cells (RBCs), the most abundant cell type in the body, but their physiological function is poorly understood. Here, we present a novel biochemical assay for haemoglobin (Hb) oxidation status which relies on a redox-sensitive covalent haem-Hb linkage that forms during SDS-mediated cell lysis. Formation of this linkage is lowest when ferrous Hb is oxidised, in the form of ferric metHb. Daily haemoglobin oxidation rhythms are observed in mouse and human RBCs cultured in vitro, or taken from humans in vivo, and are unaffected by mutations that affect circadian rhythms in nucleated cells. These rhythms correlate with daily rhythms in core body temperature, with temperature lowest when metHb levels are highest. Raising metHb levels with dietary sodium nitrite can further decrease daytime core body temperature in mice via nitric oxide (NO) signalling. These results extend our molecular understanding of RBC circadian rhythms and suggest they contribute to the regulation of body temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere114164
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 4 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • body temperature
  • circadian rhythms
  • erythrocyte
  • haemoglobin
  • redox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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