Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 161 (2012), pp. 265–270; doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2011.11.004 Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission. Journal homepage:


House mice (genus Mus) harbor extensive allelic variation at two tandemly duplicated genes that encode the β-chain subunits of adult hemoglobin (Hb). Alternative haplotypes differ in the level of sequence divergence between the two β-globin gene duplicates: the Hbbd and Hbbp haplotypes harbor two structurally distinct β-globin genes, whereas the Hbbs haplotype harbors two β-globin duplicates that are identical in sequence. One especially salient difference between the s-type Hbs relative to the d- and p-type Hbs relates to the number of reactive β-chain cysteine residues. In addition to the highly conserved cysteine residue at β93, the d- and p-type Hbs contain an additional reactive cysteine residue at β13. To assess the functional consequences of allelic variation in β-globin cysteine content, we measured O2-binding properties and H2O2-induced oxidation rates of mono- and dicysteinyl β-Hbs from 4 different inbred strains of mice: C57BL/6J, BALB/cJ, MSM/Ms, and CAROLI/EiJ. The experiments revealed that purified Hbs from the various mouse strains did not exhibit substantial variation in O2-binding properties, but s-type Hb (which contains a single reactive β-chain cysteine residue) was far more readily oxidized to Fe3+ metHb by H2O2 than other mouse Hbs that contain two reactive β-chain cysteine residues. These results suggest that the possession of an additional reactive cysteine residue may protect against metHb formation under oxidizing conditions. The allelic differences in β-globin cysteine content could affect aspects of redox signaling and oxidative/nitrosative stress responses that are mediated by Hb-S-nitrosylation and Hb-S-glutathionylation pathways.