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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 27;276(17):13628-34. Epub 2001 Jan 26.

The Bohr effect of hemoglobin intermediates and the role of salt bridges in the tertiary/quaternary transitions.

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Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biomediche, Università di Milano and Istituto Tecnologie Biomediche Avanzate del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Laboratori Interdisciplinari Tecnologie Avanzante 20090 Segrate, Italy.


Understanding mechanisms in cooperative proteins requires the analysis of the intermediate ligation states. The release of hydrogen ions at the intermediate states of native and chemically modified hemoglobin, known as the Bohr effect, is an indicator of the protein tertiary/quaternary transitions, useful for testing models of cooperativity. The Bohr effects due to ligation of one subunit of a dimer and two subunits across the dimer interface are not additive. The reductions of the Bohr effect due to the chemical modification of a Bohr group of one and two alpha or beta subunits are additive. The Bohr effects of monoliganded chemically modified hemoglobins indicate the additivity of the effects of ligation and chemical modification with the possible exception of ligation and chemical modification of the alpha subunits. These observations suggest that ligation of a subunit brings about a tertiary structure change of hemoglobin in the T quaternary structure, which breaks some salt bridges, releases hydrogen ions, and is signaled across the dimer interface in such a way that ligation of a second subunit in the adjacent dimer promotes the switch from the T to the R quaternary structure. The rupture of the salt bridges per se does not drive the transition.

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