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J Comp Physiol B. 2012 Aug;182(6):821-9. doi: 10.1007/s00360-012-0659-6. Epub 2012 Apr 6.

Molecular and physicochemical characterization of hemoglobin from the high-altitude Taiwanese brown-toothed shrew (Episoriculus fumidus).

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, 50 Sifton Road, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada.


Red-toothed shrews (subfamily Soricinae) exhibit the highest mass-specific rates of O₂ consumption recorded among eutherian mammals, though surprisingly no data appears to be available on the functional characteristics of their hemoglobin (Hb). As a first step in addressing this shortcoming, we investigated the O₂ binding characteristics of Taiwanese brown-toothed shrew (Episoriculus fumidus) Hb and its temperature and pH dependence in the absence and presence of anionic red blood cell effectors. Although comparative data regarding the intrinsic O₂ affinity of other shrew species are currently unavailable, our data suggest that the sensitivity of this high-elevation endemic species' Hb to allosteric effector molecules is similar to that of the two lowland species of white-toothed (crocidurine) shrews examined to date. The efficient exploitation of blood O₂ reserves by E. fumidus appears to be achieved via synergistic modulation of O₂ affinity by Cl⁻ and organic phosphates that moreover dramatically lowers the overall enthalpy of oxygenation of their Hb. Oxygen unloading is presumably further enhanced by a relatively high Bohr effect (ΔLog P₅₀/ΔpH = -0.69) and marked reduction in the titratable histidine content (predicted low proton buffering value) of the component globin chains relative to human HbA. Notably, however, the limited data available suggest these latter attributes may be widespread among shrews and hence likely are not adaptations to chronic altitudinal hypoxia per se.

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