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Protein Sci. 2001 Nov;10(11):2401-7.

High and low oxygen affinity conformations of T state hemoglobin.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Parma, 43100 Parma, Italy.


To understand the interplay between tertiary and quaternary transitions associated with hemoglobin function and regulation, oxygen binding curves were obtained for hemoglobin A fixed in the T quaternary state by encapsulation in wet porous silica gels. At pH 7.0 and 15 degrees C, the oxygen pressure at half saturation (p50) was measured to be 12.4 +/- 0.2 and 139 +/- 4 torr for hemoglobin gels prepared in the absence and presence of the strong allosteric effectors inositol hexaphosphate and bezafibrate, respectively. Both values are in excellent agreement with those found for the binding of the first oxygen to hemoglobin in solution under similar experimental conditions. The corresponding Hill coefficients of hemoglobin gels were 0.94 +/- 0.02 and 0.93 +/- 0.03, indicating, in the frame of the Monod, Wyman, and Changeux model, that high and low oxygen-affinity tertiary T-state conformations have been isolated in a pure form. The values, slightly lower than unity, reflect the different oxygen affinity of alpha- and beta-hemes. Significantly, hemoglobin encapsulated in the presence of the weak effector phosphate led to gels that show intermediate oxygen affinity and Hill coefficients of 0.7 to 0.8. The heterogeneous oxygen binding results from the presence of a mixture of the high and low oxygen-affinity T states. The Bohr effect was measured for hemoglobin gels containing the pure conformations and found to be more pronounced for the high-affinity T state and almost absent for the low-affinity T state. These findings indicate that the functional properties of the T quaternary state result from the contribution of two distinct, interconverting conformations, characterized by a 10-fold difference in oxygen affinity and a different extent of tertiary Bohr effect. The very small degree of T-state cooperativity observed in solution and in the crystalline state might arise from a ligand-induced perturbation of the distribution between the high- and low-affinity T-state conformations.

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