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1.  Interactions of unconjugated bilirubin with vesicles, cyclodextrins and micelles: New modeling and the role of high pKa values 
BMC Biochemistry  2010;11:16.
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.
PMCID: PMC2868783  PMID: 20350305
2.  Revalidation and rationale for high pKa values of unconjugated bilirubin 
BMC Biochemistry  2007;8:7.
Our prior solvent partition analysis, published in 1992, yielded pKa values for unconjugated bilirubin of about 8.1 and 8.4, but these results have been challenged and studies by other methods have suggested pKa values below 5.0.
We repeated our published solvent partition studies, using 14C-unconjugated bilirubin highly purified by extraction of residual labeled impurities from CHCl3 into an aqueous buffer, pH 7.0. Partition ratios at six pH values from 5.0 to 9.0 were determined by radioassay and compared with our prior values obtained by diazo assay.
At pH values ranging from 4.8 to 9.2, stable aqueous/chloroform 14C-partition ratios did not differ significantly from our published partition ratios based on diazo assay.
These results support the high pKa values of unconjugated bilirubin, above 8.0, derived from our earlier solvent partition study. In both studies, our measurements were based on the rapid analysis of clearly under-saturated solutions of highly-purified bilirubin over a wide pH range, using properly purified and preserved solvents. No previous direct estimate of the aqueous pKa values of unconjugated bilirubin meets all these preconditions. Three theoretical factors acting in combination, each related to the unique, extensive internal H-bonding of the -COOH groups, are proposed to support high pKa values of unconjugated bilirubin in water: a) donation of an H-bond from the -OH moiety of the -COOH group, which is broken on ionization; b) hindered solvation of the -COO- group after ionization; and c) restricted rotation of the -COO- and -COOH groups. Our findings and rationale rebut methodological and theoretical criticisms leveled against our prior work. High pKa values for unconjugated bilirubin dictate that: a) bilirubin diacid, which readily diffuses across membranes and can cause neurotoxicity, is the dominant unbound bilirubin species of unconjugated bilirubin in plasma at physiological pH; b) at the near-neutral pH range of gallbladder bile, the monoanion is the major unconjugated bilirubin anion present, concordant with the finding that the calcium bilirubinate precipitated in gallstones is the monoanion salt. Our conclusions are thus relevant to understanding bilirubin-induced neurological disease in severely jaundiced neonates and the precipitation of calcium bilirubinate salts in gallstones.
PMCID: PMC1877803  PMID: 17475001
3.  Low solubility of unconjugated bilirubin in dimethylsulfoxide – water systems: implications for pKa determinations 
BMC Biochemistry  2002;3:17.
Aqueous pKa values of unconjugated bilirubin are important determinants of its solubility and transport. Published pKa data on an analog, mesobilirubin-XIIIα, studied by 13C-NMR in buffered solutions containing 27 and 64 vol% (C2H3)2SO because of low aqueous solubility of mesobilirubin, were extrapolated to obtain pKa values in water of 4.2 and 4.9. Previous chloroform-water partition data on bilirubin diacid led to higher estimates of its pKa, 8.12 and 8.44, and its aqueous solubility. A thermodynamic analysis, using this solubility and a published solubility in DMSO, suggested that the systems used to measure 13C-NMR shifts were highly supersaturated. This expectation was assessed by measuring the residual concentrations of bilirubin in the supernatants of comparable DMSO-buffer systems, after mild centrifugation to remove microprecipitates.
Extensive sedimentation was observed from numerous systems, many of which appeared optically clear. The very low supernatant concentrations at the lowest pH values (4.1-5.9) were compatible with the above thermodynamic analysis. Extensive sedimentation and low supernatant concentrations occurred also at pH as high as 7.2.
The present study strongly supports the validity of the aqueous solubility of bilirubin diacid derived from partition data, and, therefore, the corresponding high pKa values. Many of the mesobilirubin systems in the 13C-NMR studies were probably supersaturated, contained microsuspensions, and were not true solutions. This, and previously documented errors in pH determinations that caused serious errors in pKa values of the many soluble reference acids and mesobilirubin, raise doubts regarding the low pKa estimates for mesobilirubin from the 13C-NMR studies.
PMCID: PMC116679  PMID: 12079498

Results 1-3 (3)