Unconjugated bilirubin (UCB) is an unstable substance with very low aqueous solubility. Its aqueous pKa values affect many of its interactions, particularly their pH-dependence. A companion paper shows that only our prior solvent partition studies, leading to pKa values of 8.12 and 8.44, met all essential requirements for valid pKa determinations. Other published values, generally lower, some below 5.0, were shown to be invalid. The present work was designed to derive suitable models for interpreting published data on the pH-dependent binding of UCB with four agents, mentioned below, chosen because they are not, themselves, sensitive to changes in the pH range 4-10, and the data, mainly spectrometric, were of reasonable quality.
These analyses indicated that the high pKa values, dianion dimerization constant and solubilities of UCB at various pH values, derived from our partition studies, along with literature-derived pH- and time-dependent supersaturation effects, were essential for constructing useful models that showed good qualitative, and sometimes quantitative, fits with the data. In contrast, published pKa values below 5.0 were highly incompatible with the data for all systems considered. The primary species of bound UCB in our models were: undissociated diacid for phosphatidylcholine, dianion for dodecyl maltoside micelles and cyclodextrins, and both monoanions and dianion for sodium taurocholate. The resulting binding versus pH profiles differed strikingly from each other.
The insights derived from these analyses should be helpful to explore and interpret UCB binding to more complex, pH-sensitive, physiological moieties, such as proteins or membranes, in order to understand its functions.