What is the function of Hemoglobin?

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We all are taught about the important function of hemoglobin in our body. Anemia is a very common blood condition which is associated with the decrease in amount of hemoglobin and very predominant in women. The hemoglobin percentage required by the body of both women and men is different and hence when the blood tests reveal less hemoglobin percentage, the person is said to be anemic. Apart from this there are various other functions and activities related to this component which is also known to give our blood the red color. Studies reveal that each red blood cell (RBC) comprises of around 280 million hemoglobin molecules.


What is Hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is present in red blood cells and is an essential chemical which carries oxygen from lungs to other parts of the body. It is metalloprotein having quarternary structure which contains iron and performs the important function of transporting oxygen via RBCs in blood in mammals as well as other animals. It also fulfills different effect modulation and gas transport duties, although which differ from species to species and most probably is altogether different in invertebrates. Some oxygen is dissolved in blood while some bound to hemoglobin. But the more amount of oxygen molecules bounded to hemoglobin, the more oxygen in reached to every part of the body. Hence this pack of chemicals known as hemoglobin performs the most vital duty of binding oxygen to it so that it reaches each and every body part.



What are the two components of hemoglobin?

The name hemoglobin is made from the blend of heme and globin. Globin is the globular protein in which heme-an iron atom is embedded which is the main chemical binding oxygen. The common type of hemoglobin consists of four subunits:

  • Two alpha (α) subunits or globins
  • Two beta (β) subunits or globins

All these units are made up of long protein stretch which usually is coiled in the form of eight alpha helices. The heme group is a ring of carbon atoms having an iron atom embedded in the center. This iron atom is safely protected in the centre because this atom is capable of holding the oxygen by forming chemical bond. Iron ion binds to six various things whereas the oxygen forms a coordinate covalent bond with it and gets released in blood at the right place. Iron is a transition metal having red color and that is the reason why our blood is red in color.


What is the structure of hemoglobin?

It is a tetramer molecule in which the alpha globin chain comprises of 141 amino acids whereas the beta globin chain constitutes 146 amino acids. Both these globin proteins have the same tertiary and secondary structures having 8 helical segments each. Also each chain of globin consists of 1 hemme molecule which is made up of porphyrin ring containing 4 pyrrole molecules linked together cyclically along with an iron ion ligand that is bound at the center. This hemme molecule is placed in between helix E and helix F of the globin protein. The subunits of globin chains are present in two dimmers and are strongly bonded to each other.


What are the functions of hemoglobin?

The hemoglobin molecules with the help of external chemical factors take up oxygen molecules in the lungs and then send them to the various tissues of our body. The biggest regulator of oxygen affinity in the hemoglobin is the oxygen itself. If in lungs, the oxygen levels are high the hemoglobin shows greater affinity towards the oxygen molecules and as it bounds to more oxygen, this property of affinity increases and vice versa. When the oxyhemoglobin binds to the maximum capacity, it becomes saturated but its affinity towards oxygen increases whereas when this binding loose oxygen molecule the affinity decreases. This regulation activity is called as cooperativity and is an important function as it allows maximum amount of hemoglobin to be carried to the tissues and also allows deoxyhemoglobin which is releasing the oxygen tissue. The external chemical factors which help in regulation of oxyhemoglobin affinity includes pH, DPG (2, 3-diphosphoglycerate) and carbon dioxide.


What are the hemoglobin C, S-C and E diseases?

These are the inherited conditions which occur due to the presence of abnormally shaped RBCs and also due to chronic anemia- a resultant of extensive RBC destruction. Hemoglobin C, S, and E are known to be the abnormal hemoglobin forms and is due to an abnormal gene which is passed on genetically. Hemoglobin C is found mostly in black people whereas Hemoglobin E disease is more prevalent in people belonging to Southeast Asia. Hemoglobin S-C disease is found when the blood constitutes one sickle cell gene copy and one gene of hemoglobin C disease copy.

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