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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 1985; 82(1): 73–77.
PMCID: PMC396973

Complete amino acid sequence of human hemopexin, the heme-binding protein of serum.


We have determined the complete primary structure of human hemopexin, a plasma beta-glycoprotein that specifically binds one heme with high affinity and transports it to hepatocytes for salvage of the iron. Human hemopexin (Mr approximately equal to 63,000) consists of a single polypeptide chain containing 439 amino acid residues with six intrachain disulfide bridges. The amino-terminal threonine residue is blocked by an O-linked galactosamine oligosaccharide, and the protein has five glucosamine oligosaccharides N-linked to the acceptor sequence Asn-X-Ser/Thr. The 18 tryptophan residues are arranged in four clusters, and 12 of the tryptophans are conserved in homologous positions. Computer-assisted analysis of the internal homology in amino acid sequence indicates that hemopexin consists of two similar halves, thus suggesting duplication of an ancestral gene. Limited tryptic digestion cleaves apohemopexin after arginine-216 into two half-molecules, whereas heme-saturated hemopexin is cleaved after lysine-101. The half-molecules are connected by a histidine-rich hinge-like region that contains two glucosamine oligosaccharides. A structural model for human hemopexin is proposed that is based on these properties and on computer-assisted predictions of the secondary structure and the hydrophilic/hydrophobic character. In this model alpha-helices and beta-turns predominate, and the two halves are connected by an exposed connecting region in apohemopexin that becomes inaccessible to trypsin in hemesaturated hemopexin. Many segments of hemopexin are similar to sequences of other heme proteins, but no overall structural relationship of hemopexin to any other heme protein was identified.

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