Nitrite reductase activity of hemoglobin S (sickle) provides insight into contributions of heme redox potential versus ligand affinity

Rozalina Grubina, Swati Basu, Mauro Tiso, Daniel B. Kim-Shapiro, Mark T. Gladwin

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44 Scopus citations


Hemoglobin A (HbA) is an allosterically regulated nitrite reductase that reduces nitrite to NO under physiological hypoxia. The efficiency of this reaction is modulated by two intrinsic and opposing properties: availability of unliganded ferrous hemes and R-state character of the hemoglobin tetramer. Nitrite is reduced by deoxygenated ferrous hemes, such that heme deoxygenation increases the rate of NO generation. However, heme reactivity with nitrite, represented by its bimolecular rate constant, is greatest when the tetramer is in the R quaternary state. The mechanism underlying the higher reactivity of R-state hemes remains elusive. It can be due to the lower heme redox potential of R-state ferrous hemes or could reflect the high ligand affinity geometry of R-state tetramers that facilitates nitrite binding. We evaluated the nitrite reductase activity of unpolymerized sickle hemoglobin (HbS), whose oxygen affinity and cooperativity profile are equal to those of HbA, but whose heme iron has a lower redox potential. We now report that HbS exhibits allosteric nitrite reductase activity with competing proton and redox Bohr effects. In addition, we found that solution phase HbS reduces nitrite to NO significantly faster than HbA, supporting the thesis that heme electronics (i.e. redox potential) contributes to the high reactivity of R-state deoxy-hemes with nitrite. From a pathophysiological standpoint, under conditions where HbS polymers form, the rate of nitrite reduction is reduced compared with HbA and solution-phase HbS, indicating that HbS polymers reduce nitrite more slowly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3628-3638
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 8 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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