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An Essay on Hemoglobin Structure and Function

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An Essay on Hemoglobin Structure and Function: Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and carries carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. In order to function most efficiently, hemoglobin needs to bind to oxygen tightly in the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the lungs and be able to release oxygen rapidly in the relatively oxygen-poor environment of the tissues. It does this in a most elegant and intricately coordinated way. The story of hemoglobin is the prototype example of the relationship between structure and function of a protein molecule. ...read more.


The iron ion makes a fifth bond to a histidine side chain from one of the helices that form the heme pocket. This fifth coordination bond is to histidine 87 in the human ? chain and histidine 92 in the human ? chain. Both histidine residues are part of the F helix in each globin chain. The Bohr Effect The ability of hemoglobin to release oxygen, is affected by pH, CO2 and by the differences in the oxygen-rich environment of the lungs and the oxygen-poor environment of the tissues. The pH in the tissues is considerably lower (more acidic) ...read more.


This is known as the Bohr effect, and is vital in the removal of carbon dioxide as waste because CO2 is insoluble in the bloodstream. The bicarbonate ion is much more soluble, and can thereby be transported back to the lungs after being bound to hemoglobin. If hemoglobin couldn't absorb the excess protons, the equilibrium would shift to the left, and carbon dioxide couldn't be removed. In the lungs, this effect works in the reverse direction. In the presence of the high oxygen concentration in the lungs, the proton affinity decreases. As protons are shed, the reaction is driven to the left, and CO2 forms as an insoluble gas to be expelled from the lungs. The proton poor hemoglobin now has a greater affinity for oxygen, and the cycle continues. ...read more.

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