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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 19;279(12):11600-7. Epub 2003 Dec 29.

Identification of free radicals on hemoglobin from its self-peroxidation using mass spectrometry and immuno-spin trapping: observation of a histidinyl radical.

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  • 1Laboratory of Structural Biology, Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


In an effort to understand the mechanism of radical formation on heme proteins, the formation of radicals on hemoglobin was initiated by reaction with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of the spin trap 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO). The DMPO nitrone adducts were analyzed by mass spectrometry (MS) and immuno-spin trapping. The spin-trapped protein adducts were then subjected to tryptic digestion and MS analyses. When hemoglobin was reacted with hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) in the presence of DMPO, a DMPO nitrone adduct could be detected by immuno-spin trapping. To verify that DMPO adducts of the protein free radicals had been formed, the reaction mixtures were analyzed by flow injection electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI/MS). The ESI mass spectrum of the hemoglobin/H(2)O(2)/DMPO sample shows one adduct each on both the alpha chain and the beta chain of hemoglobin which corresponds in mass to the addition of one DMPO molecule. The nature of the radicals formed on hemoglobin was explored using proteolysis techniques followed by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) analyses. The following sites of DMPO addition were identified on hemoglobin: Cys-93 of the beta chain, and Tyr-42, Tyr-24, and His-20 of the alpha chain. Because of the pi-pi interaction of Tyr-24 and His-20, the unpaired electron is apparently delocalized on both the tyrosine and histidine residue (pi-pi stacked pair radical).

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