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1.  Identification of a Small Molecule that Increases Hemoglobin Oxygen Affinity and Reduces SS Erythrocyte Sickling 
ACS Chemical Biology  2014;9(10):2318-2325.
Small molecules that increase the oxygen affinity of human hemoglobin may reduce sickling of red blood cells in patients with sickle cell disease. We screened 38 700 compounds using small molecule microarrays and identified 427 molecules that bind to hemoglobin. We developed a high-throughput assay for evaluating the ability of the 427 small molecules to modulate the oxygen affinity of hemoglobin. We identified a novel allosteric effector of hemoglobin, di(5-(2,3-dihydro-1,4-benzodioxin-2-yl)-4H-1,2,4-triazol-3-yl)disulfide (TD-1). TD-1 induced a greater increase in oxygen affinity of human hemoglobin in solution and in red blood cells than did 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furfural (5-HMF), N-ethylmaleimide (NEM), or diformamidine disulfide. The three-dimensional structure of hemoglobin complexed with TD-1 revealed that monomeric units of TD-1 bound covalently to β-Cys93 and β-Cys112, as well as noncovalently to the central water cavity of the hemoglobin tetramer. The binding of TD-1 to hemoglobin stabilized the relaxed state (R3-state) of hemoglobin. TD-1 increased the oxygen affinity of sickle hemoglobin and inhibited in vitro hypoxia-induced sickling of red blood cells in patients with sickle cell disease without causing hemolysis. Our study indicates that TD-1 represents a novel lead molecule for the treatment of patients with sickle cell disease.
PMCID: PMC4205001  PMID: 25061917
2.  From protein structure to function via single crystal optical spectroscopy 
The more than 100,000 protein structures determined by X-ray crystallography provide a wealth of information for the characterization of biological processes at the molecular level. However, several crystallographic “artifacts,” including conformational selection, crystallization conditions and radiation damages, may affect the quality and the interpretation of the electron density maps, thus limiting the relevance of structure determinations. Moreover, for most of these structures, no functional data have been obtained in the crystalline state, thus posing serious questions on their validity in infereing protein mechanisms. In order to solve these issues, spectroscopic methods have been applied for the determination of equilibrium and kinetic properties of proteins in the crystalline state. These methods are UV-vis spectrophotometry, spectrofluorimetry, IR, EPR, Raman, and resonance Raman spectroscopy. Some of these approaches have been implemented with on-line instruments at X-ray synchrotron beamlines. Here, we provide an overview of investigations predominantly carried out in our laboratory by single crystal polarized absorption UV-vis microspectrophotometry, the most applied technique for the functional characterization of proteins in the crystalline state. Studies on hemoglobins, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate dependent enzymes and green fluorescent protein in the crystalline state have addressed key biological issues, leading to either straightforward structure-function correlations or limitations to structure-based mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4428442  PMID: 25988179
protein crystal; microspectrophotometry; conformational changes; X-ray crystallography; metastable intermediate; structure-function relationship; synchrotron source
3.  Tertiary and quaternary allostery in HbII from Scapharca inaequivalvis 
Biochemistry  2013;52(12):10.1021/bi301620x.
The clam Scapharca inaequivalvis possesses two cooperative oxygen binding hemoglobins in its red cells: a homodimeric HbI and a heterotetrameric A2B2 HbII. Each AB dimeric half of HbII is assembled very similarly to that of the well studied HbI. This study presents crystal structures of HbII along with oxygen binding data both in the crystalline state and in wet nanoporous silica gels. Despite very similar ligand-linked structural transitions observed in HbI and HbII crystals, HbII in the crystal or encapsulated in silica gels apparently exhibits minimal cooperativity in oxygen binding, in contrast with the full cooperativity exhibited by HbI crystals. However, oxygen binding curves in the crystal indicate the presence of a significant functional inequivalence of A and B chains. When this inequivalence is taken into account, both crystal and R state gel functional data are consistent with the conservation of a tertiary contribution to cooperative oxygen binding, quantitatively similar to that measured for HbI, and are in keeping with the structural information. Furthermore, our results indicate that to fully express the cooperative ligand binding, HbII requires quaternary transitions hampered by crystal lattice and gel encapsulation, revealing greater complexity in cooperative function than the direct communication across a dimeric interface observed in HbI.
PMCID: PMC3742685  PMID: 23458680
X-ray crystallography; microspectrophotometry; silica gel; cooperativity; hemoglobin
4.  Low affinity PEGylated hemoglobin from Trematomus bernacchii, a model for hemoglobin-based blood substitutes 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:66.
Conjugation of human and animal hemoglobins with polyethylene glycol has been widely explored as a means to develop blood substitutes, a novel pharmaceutical class to be used in surgery or emergency medicine. However, PEGylation of human hemoglobin led to products with significantly different oxygen binding properties with respect to the unmodified tetramer and high NO dioxygenase reactivity, known causes of toxicity. These recent findings call for the biotechnological development of stable, low-affinity PEGylated hemoglobins with low NO dioxygenase reactivity.
To investigate the effects of PEGylation on protein structure and function, we compared the PEGylation products of human hemoglobin and Trematomus bernacchii hemoglobin, a natural variant endowed with a remarkably low oxygen affinity and high tetramer stability. We show that extension arm facilitated PEGylation chemistry based on the reaction of T. bernacchii hemoglobin with 2-iminothiolane and maleimido-functionalyzed polyethylene glycol (MW 5000 Da) leads to a tetraPEGylated product, more homogeneous than the corresponding derivative of human hemoglobin. PEGylated T. bernacchii hemoglobin largely retains the low affinity of the unmodified tetramer, with a p50 50 times higher than PEGylated human hemoglobin. Moreover, it is still sensitive to protons and the allosteric effector ATP, indicating the retention of allosteric regulation. It is also 10-fold less reactive towards nitrogen monoxide than PEGylated human hemoglobin.
These results indicate that PEGylated hemoglobins, provided that a suitable starting hemoglobin variant is chosen, can cover a wide range of oxygen-binding properties, potentially meeting the functional requirements of blood substitutes in terms of oxygen affinity, tetramer stability and NO dioxygenase reactivity.
PMCID: PMC3268738  PMID: 22185675
5.  Haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers: research and reality towards an alternative to blood transfusions 
Blood Transfusion  2010;8(Suppl 3):s59-s68.
PMCID: PMC2897202  PMID: 20606751
haemoglobin; oxygen therapy; transfusion; red blood cells

Results 1-5 (5)