Crystallographic Studies of Rrythrocruorin from Lumbricus Terrestris: a Dissertation

Publication Date

June 2004

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Crystallography, X-Ray; Erythrocruorins; Hemoglobins; Oligochaeta; Academic Dissertations


The viability of multicellular aerobic organisms requires the binding and transport of molecular oxygen from the atmosphere to sites of metabolism. In the earthworm, Lumbricus terrestris, erythrocruorins are freely dissolved multi-subunit protein complexes that serve the same functions as red blood cells The aims of this study were to 1) determine the overall arrangement of hemoglobin chains and non-hemoglobin chains in Lumbricus erythrocruorin, 2) determine the stereochemical determinants specifying erythrocruorin's hierarchical symmetry, and 3) investigate the molecular and chemical basis for the remarkable cooperative binding of ligands to earthworm hemoglobin. Erythrocruorin is a highly cooperative oxygen-carrying protein with Hill coefficients measured at some pH's as high as n = 7.9. Crystallographic analysis of the whole erythrocruorin molecule structure to 5.5 Å resolution reveals a hierarchical organization of 144 oxygen-binding polypeptides and 36 non-hemoglobin linker polypeptide chains. The hemoglobin chains are arranged in a novel dodecameric substructure at the periphery of the complex, whereas 36 linker chains comprise the inner core and projected triple-stranded, helical coiled-coil spokes towards the center of the complex. Interdigitation of these spokes appears crucial for stabilizing the complex. Crystallographic analysis of crystals from isolated hemoglobin chains provides greater detail (resolution = 2.6 Å) and complete atomic models for the hemoglobin polypeptides. Comparison of these models with other hemoglobins reveal unique features in the distal heme pocket, including large aromatic residues at the B10 position in three of the four hemoglobin chains. Aromatic residues at this position have been implicated in other hemoglobins to confer resistance to oxidation. Molecular interactions across each subunit include pH-dependent interactions that are consistent with the observed Bohr effect on oxygen binding. Specifically a π-cation interaction between an arginine of one subunit to a histidine of the opposing subunit is likely an important molecular switch in the allosteric transition from a low to high affInity ligand-binding state.


In the process of seeking author's permission to provide full text.

Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.

This document is currently not available here.