Structural analysis of polymers of sickle cell hemoglobin. II. Sickle hemoglobin macrofibers

David A. Bluemke, Bridget Carragher, Michael J. Potel, Robert Josephs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sickle cell hemoglobin macrofibers are an important intermediate in the low pH crystallization pathway of deoxygenated hemoglobin S that link the fiber to the crystal. Macrofibers are a class of helical particles differing primarily in their diameters but are related by a common packing of their constituent subunits. We have performed three-dimensional reconstructions of three types of macrofibers. These reconstructions show that macrofibers are composed of rows of Wishner-Love double strands in an arrangement similar to that in the crystal. We have measured the orientation and co-ordinates of double strands in macrofibers using cross-correlation techniques. In this approach, the electron density projections of double strands calculated from the known high-resolution crystal structure are compared with regions along the length of the particles in which the distinct pattern of double strands in c-axis projection may be observed. Contrary to assertions by Makinen & Sigountos (1984), our results unambigously demonstrate that adjacent rows of double strands in macrofibers are oriented in an antiparallel manner, as in the Wishner-Love crystal. Adjacent rows of antiparallel double strands are displaced along the helical axis relative to their co-ordinates in the crystal. Electron density models of macrofibers based on the crystallographic structure of the sickle hemoglobin double strand are in good agreement with the projections of macrofibers observed in electron micrographs. We have studied the structure of a closely related crystallization intermediate, the sickle hemoglobin paracrystal. The arrangement of double strands in paracrystals is similar to that in Wishner-Love crystals, except that they are displaced along the a-axis of the crystal. Measurements of the double strand co-ordinates reveal that the distribution of strand positions is bimodal. These results further establish the close structural relationship between macrofibers and paracrystals as intermediates in the crystallization of deoxygenated sickle hemoglobin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-348
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 20 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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