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Bohr effect

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Hemoglobin Dissociation Curve. Dotted red line corresponds with shift to the right caused by
Bohr effect
The Bohr effect is a physiological phenomenon first described in 1904 by the Danish
physiologist Christian Bohr, stating that hemoglobin's oxygen binding affinity is inversely related
both to acidity and to the concentration of carbon dioxide.[1] That is to say, a decrease in blood
pH which leads to an increase in blood CO2 concentration will result in hemoglobin proteins
releasing their loads of oxygen. Conversely, a decrease in carbon dioxide provokes an increase in
pH, which results in hemoglobin picking up more oxygen. Since carbon dioxide reacts with
water to form carbonic acid, an increase in CO2 results in a decrease in blood pH.

1 Mechanism
2 Physiological role
3 Effects of allostery
4 See also
5 References
6 External links

In deoxyhemoglobin, the N-terminal amino groups of the -subunits and the C-terminal histidine
of the -subunits participate in ion pairs. The formation of ion pairs causes them to decrease in
acidity. Thus, deoxyhemoglobin binds one proton (H+) for every two O2 released. In
oxyhemoglobin, these ion pairings are absent and these groups increase in acidity.
Consequentially, a proton is released for every two O2 bound. Specifically, this reciprocal
coupling of protons and oxygen is the Bohr effect.[2]

Additionally, carbon dioxide reacts with the N-terminal amino groups of -subunits to form
RNH2 + CO2


Deoxyhemoglobin binds to CO2 more readily to form a carbamate than oxyhemoglobin. When
CO2 concentration is high (as in the capillaries), the protons released by carbamate formation
further promotes oxygen release. Although the difference in CO2 binding between the oxy and
deoxy states of hemoglobin accounts for only 5% of the total blood CO2, it is responsible for half
of the CO2 transported by blood. This is because 10% of the total blood CO2 is lost through the
lungs in each circulatory cycle.[4]

Physiological role
This effect facilitates oxygen transport as hemoglobin binds to oxygen in the lungs, but then
releases it in the tissues, particularly those tissues in most need of oxygen. When a tissue's
metabolic rate increases, its carbon dioxide production increases. Carbon dioxide forms
bicarbonate through the following reaction:
CO2 + H2O


H+ + HCO3

Although the reaction usually proceeds very slowly, the enzyme family of carbonic anhydrase,
which is present in red blood cells, accelerates the formation of bicarbonate and protons.[citation
This causes the pH of tissues to decrease, and so, promotes the dissociation of oxygen from
hemoglobin to the tissue, allowing the tissue to obtain enough oxygen to meet its demands.
Conversely, in the lungs, where oxygen concentration is high, binding of oxygen causes
hemoglobin to release protons, which combine with bicarbonate to drive off carbon dioxide in
exhalation. Since these two reactions are closely matched, there is little change in blood pH.
The dissociation curve shifts to the right when carbon dioxide or hydrogen ion concentration is
increased. This facilitates increased oxygen dumping. This mechanism allows for the body to
adapt the problem of supplying more oxygen to tissues that need it the most. When muscles are
undergoing strenuous activity, they generate CO2 and lactic acid as products of cellular
respiration and lactic acid fermentation. In fact, muscles generate lactic acid so quickly that pH
of the blood passing through the muscles will drop to around 7.2. As lactic acid releases its
protons, pH decreases, which causes hemoglobin to release ~10% more oxygen.[4]

Effects of allostery
The Bohr effect is dependent on allosteric interactions between the hemes of the hemoglobin
tetramer. This is evidenced by the fact that myoglobin, a monomer with no allostery, does not
exhibit the Bohr effect. Hemoglobin mutants with weaker allostery may exhibit a reduced Bohr

In the Hiroshima variant hemoglobinopathy, allostery in hemoglobin is reduced, and the Bohr
effect is diminished. During periods of exercise, the mutant hemoglobin has a higher affinity for
oxygen and tissue may suffer minor oxygen starvation.[5]

See also
Allosteric regulation
Haldane Effect
Root effect

1. Bohr; Hasselbalch, Krogh. Concerning a Biologically Important Relationship - The
Influence of the Carbon Dioxide Content of Blood on its Oxygen Binding.
2. Murray, Robert K.; Darryl K. Granner; Peter A. Mayes; Victor W. Rodwell (2003).
Harpers Illustrated Biochemistry (LANGE Basic Science) (26th ed.). McGraw-Hill
Medical. pp. 4445. ISBN 0-07-138901-6.
3. Lehninger, Albert L.; Nelson, David L.; Cox, Michael M. (2008). Principles of
Biochemistry (5th ed.). New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company. p. 166. ISBN 9780-7167-7108-1.
4. Voet, Donald; Judith G. Voet; Charlotte W. Pratt (2008). Fundamentals of Biochemistry:
Life at the Molecular Level (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 189190.
5. Olson, JS; Gibson QH; Nagel RL; Hamilton HB (December 1972). "The ligand-binding
properties of hemoglobin Hiroshima ( 2 2 146asp )". The Journal of Biological Chemistry
247 (23): 748593. PMID 4636319