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Anal Biochem. 2001 Nov 1;298(1):76-82.

Mass spectral analysis of asymmetric hemoglobin hybrids: demonstration of Hb FS (alpha2gammabetaS) in sickle cell disease.

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Department of Haematological Medicine, Guy's, King's, and St Thomas' School of Medicine, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 9RS, United Kingdom.


Formation of the asymmetric hemoglobin hybrid FS (alpha2gammabetaS) inhibits hemoglobin S (Hb S) polymerization in vitro and underlies the protective effect of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) in homozygous sickle cell disease. Conventional methods for separating Hb reveal only symmetric Hb tetramers because of the rapid dissociation of tetramers to dimers relative to the separation time for electrophoresis and chromatography. To gain insight into the quantitative distribution of asymmetric Hb FS and other tetrameric species in sickle cell disease, the noncovalent association of Hb subunits in hemolysates was studied by a novel application of electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS). Mass spectra of both patient and fetal blood revealed predominance of tetrameric species with dimer and monomer subunits in lower abundance. ESI-MS analysis revealed the hybrid Hb AF (alpha2gammabetaA) in hemolysates shown by conventional high-performance liquid chromatography to contain only the symmetric species Hb A (alpha2betaA2) and Hb F (alpha2gamma2). A unique tetramer of average mass 64,558 Da was identified in hemolysates from patients with sickle cell disease in accordance with the calculated mass of the asymmetric Hb hybrid FS. Hybrid Hb species were stable under the ESI-MS conditions employed allowing concurrent determination of the proportions of Hb FS and the symmetrical Hb S (alpha2betaS2). The ratios of Hb FS to Hb S correlated closely (r2 = 0.96) with those predicted under physiological conditions.

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