Molecular engineering of a polymer of tetrameric hemoglobins

Clara Fronticelli, Daniele Arosio, Kevin M. Bobofchak, Gregory B. Vasquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We have engineered a recombinant mutant human hemoglobin, Hb Prisca β(S9C+C93A+C112G), which assembles in a polymeric form. The polymerization is obtained through the formation of intermolecular S-S bonds between cysteine residues introduced at position β9, on the model of Hb Porto Alegre (β9Ser → Cys) (Bonaventura and Riggs, Science 1967;155:800-802). Cβ93 and Cβ112 were replaced in order to prevent formation of spurious S-S bonds during the expression, assembly, and polymerization events. Dynamic light scattering measurements indicate that the final polymerization product is mainly formed by 6 to 8 tetrameric hemoglobin molecules. The sample polydispersity Q = 0.07 ± 0.02, is similar to that of purified human hemoglobin (Q = 0.02 ± 0.02), consistent with a good degree of homogeneity. In the presence of strong reducing agents, the polymer reverts to its tetrameric form. During the depolymerization process, a direct correlation is observed between the hydrodynamic radius and the light scattering of the system, which, in turn, is proportional to the mass of the protein. We interpret this to indicate that the hemoglobin molecules are tightly packed in the polymer with no empty spaces. The tight packing of the hemoglobin molecules suggests that the polymer has a globular shape and, thus, allows estimation of its radius. An illustration of an arrangement of a finite number of tetrameric hemoglobin molecules is presented. The conformational and functional characteristics of this polymer, such as heme pocket conformation, stability to denaturation, autoxidation rate, oxygen affinity, and cooperativity, remain similar to those of tetrameric human hemoglobin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-222
Number of pages11
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 15 2001


  • Autoxidation
  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Genetic engineering
  • Heme pocket
  • Oxygen affinity
  • Polymerization
  • Recombinant hemoglobins
  • Thermal stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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