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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Functional effects of replacing human alpha- and beta-globins with their embryonic globin homologues in defined haemoglobin heterotetramers.

Embryonic- and adult-stage globin subunits assemble into haemoglobin (Hb) heterotetramers that are expressed at low levels throughout human intrauterine development. These haemoglobins differ from adult Hb A (alpha2beta2) by the substitution of embryonic zeta for adult alpha globin (Hb zeta2beta2), or embryonic epsilon for adult beta globin (Hb alpha2epsilon2). Several key physiological properties of these 'semiembryonic' haemoglobins remain undefined, as ethical and methodological considerations have limited their availability from both human sources and conventional expression systems. The current study attempts to estimate how the physiological properties of semiembryonic and adult haemoglobins may differ, by determining whether the O2-binding characteristics of hybrid human/mouse haemoglobins change when human alpha- or beta-globin subunits are replaced by human embryonic zeta- or epsilon-globin subunits respectively. Each of the four human globins is expressed in transgenic mice that are nullizygous for either the endogenous mouse alpha- or beta-globin genes, resulting in the high-level expression of haemoglobins that can be studied either in situ in intact erythrocytes or in vitro. We showed that the exchange of human zeta-globin for human alpha-globin chains increased haemoglobin O2 affinity, both in the presence and in the absence of 2, 3-bisphosphoglycerate (2,3-BPG), and reduced the pH-dependent shift in its oxygen equilibrium curve (Bohr effect). By comparison, hybrid haemoglobins containing either human epsilon-globin or human beta-globin exhibited nearly identical O2-binding properties, both in situ and in vitro, regardless of 2,3-BPG levels or ambient pH. Neither the zeta-for-alpha nor the epsilon-for-beta substitutions substantially altered binding affinity for 2,3-BPG or cooperativity between globin subunits. These studies suggest that semiembryonic haemoglobins that assemble entirely from human subunits may exhibit properties that are similar to those of human Hb A.[1]


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