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Biochemistry. 2001 Feb 13;40(6):1635-9.

The acetylation state of human fetal hemoglobin modulates the strength of its subunit interactions: long-range effects and implications for histone interactions in the nucleosome.

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  • 1Northeastern University, Department of Biology, Mugar Life Sciences Building, Room 414, 360 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The source of the 70-fold increased tetramer strength of liganded fetal hemoglobin relative to that of adult hemoglobin between pH 6.0 and 7.5 reported earlier [Dumoulin et al. (1997) J. Biol. Chem. 272, 31326] has been identified as the N-terminal Gly residue of the gamma-chain, which is replaced by Val in adult hemoglobin. This was revealed by extending the study of the pH dependence of the tetramer-dimer equilibrium of these hemoglobins into the alkaline range as far as pH 9. From pH 7.5 to 9.0, the 70-fold difference in the association equilibrium constant between hemoglobins F and A lessened progressively. This behavior was attributed to the difference in the pK(a) 8.1 of Gly-1(gamma) compared to the pK(a) 7.1 value of Val-1(beta) of hemoglobins F and A, respectively. Evidence for this conclusion was obtained by demonstrating that natural hemoglobin F(1), which is specifically acetylated at Gly-1(gamma) and hence unable to be protonated, behaves like HbA and not HbF in its tetramer-dimer association properties over the pH range studied. An increased degree of protonation of the gamma-chain N-terminus of hemoglobin F from pH 9.0 to 8.0 is therefore suggested as responsible for its increased tetramer strength representing an example of transmission of a signal from its positively charged N-terminal tail to the distant subunit allosteric interface where the equilibrium constant is measured. An analogy is made between the effects of acetylation of the fetal hemoglobin tetramer on the strength of its subunit interactions and acetylation of some internal Lys residues within the N-terminal segments of the histone octamer around which DNA is wrapped in the nucleosome.

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