Field of Science

Atomic origin of the Bohr effect

 2013 Nov 26;52(47):8539-55. doi: 10.1021/bi401126z. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

Hemoglobin Bohr effects: atomic origin of the histidine residue contributions.


The Bohr effect in hemoglobin, which refers to the dependence of the oxygen affinity on the pH, plays an important role in its cooperativity and physiological function. The dominant contribution to the Bohr effect arises from the difference in the pKa values of His residues of the unliganded (deoxy) and liganded (carbonmonoxy) structures. Using recent high resolution structures, the residue pKa values corresponding to the two structures are calculated. The method is based on determining the electrostatic interactions between residues in the protein, relative to those of the residue in solution, by use of the linearized finite difference Poisson-Boltzmann equation and Monte Carlo sampling of protonation states. Given that good agreement is obtained with the available experimental values for the contribution of His residues in HbA to the Bohr effect, the calculated results are used to determine the atomic origin of the pKa shift between deoxy and carbonmonoxy HbA. The contributions to the pKa shift calculated by means of the linear response approximation show that the salt bridge involving His146 plays an important role in the alkaline Bohr effect, as suggested by Perutz but that other interactions are significant as well. A corresponding analysis is made for the contribution of His143 to the acid Bohr effect for which there is no proposed explanation. The method used is summarized and the program by which it is implemented is described in the Appendix .

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