Effect of T-R conformational change on sickle-cell hemoglobin interactions and aggregation

S. M. Vaiana, M. A. Rotter, A. Emanuele, F. A. Ferrone, M. B. Palma-Vittorelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We compare the role of a conformational switch and that of a point mutation in the thermodynamic stability of a protein solution and in the consequent propensity toward aggregation. We study sickle-cell hemoglobin (HbS), the β6 Glu-Val point mutant of adult human hemoglobin (HbA), in its R (CO-liganded) conformation, and compare its aggregation properties to those of both HbS and HbA in their T (unliganded) conformation. Static and dynamic light scattering measurements performed for various hemoglobin concentrations showed critical divergences with mean field exponents as temperature was increased. This allowed determining spinodal data points TS(c) by extrapolation. These points were fitted to theoretical expressions of the TS(c) spinodal line, which delimits the region where the homogeneous solution becomes thermodynamically unstable against demixing in two sets of denser and dilute mesoscopic domains, while remaining still liquid. Fitting provided model-free numerical values of enthalpy and entropy parameters measuring the stability of solutions against demixing, namely, 93.2 kJ/ mol and 314 J/°K-mol, respectively. Aggregation was observed also for R-HbS, but in amorphous form and above physiological temperatures close to the spinodal, consistent with the role played in nucleation by anomalous fluctuations governed by the parameter ε = (T-TS)/TS. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and optical spectroscopy showed that aggregation is neither preceded nor followed by denaturation. Transient multiple interprotein contacts occur in the denser liquid domains for R-HbS, T-HbS, and T-HbA The distinct effects of their specific nature and configurations, and those of desolvation on the demising and aggregation thermodynamics, and on the aggregate structure are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-438
Number of pages13
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydration
  • Hydrophobic interactions
  • Nucleation
  • Point mutations
  • Protein aggregation
  • Protein deposit
  • Protein fibers
  • Solvent-mediated interactions
  • Spinodal demixing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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